[Excerpt of feature article by Stephen Underwood, September 21, 2023]

The Hartford Land Bank is a nonprofit organization that acquires vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent or distressed properties in Hartford and redevelops them by teaming up with local developers. The nonprofit group works with dozens of local developers just like Salazar that are invested in the city, according to Arunan Arulampalam, Land Bank CEO. [....]

Salazar, Arulampalam, Mayor Luke Bronin, Department of Housing Deputy Commissioner Brandon McGee, and several community leaders gathered to celebrate the completion of the renovation work. The building, just one of the Land Bank’s several completed projects this year, was converted into a six-unit rental property. Units are going for $1,900 per month, according to listing prices on Zillow.

“So many of the problems we have in Hartford are because so much of our properties are owned by folks who live outside the city,” Arulampalam said. “The more we can allow folks who care about this community to own in this community, I think the better and stronger we will be in the city.”

As part of the Land Bank’s mission to grow its local developer pool, the organization offers a five-week developer cohort training program to Hartford residents for free. The program allows them to spend time in blighted properties and meet with housing code inspectors to ask questions and learn more about getting buildings up to code. So far, hundreds of Hartford residents have applied for the trainings with only a handful who have completed them, according to the Land Bank.

Hartford’s homeownership rate remains among the lowest in the state at 24%. New Haven fares slightly better with a 28% homeownership rate. In contrast, neighboring Glastonbury has a homeownership rate of 80%, according to CT DataHaven.

“For Black and brown families, generational wealth starts with owning a home. It is clear that when you look at a city where only 24% of residents are homeowners and you look across the river to Glastonbury, the lack of homeownership really drives the generational wealth divide,” Arulampalam said.

Among the Land Bank’s chief goals is to promote homeownership. To do this, the group offers gap assistance to developers who want to rehab a property for homeownership. For example, if a property is estimated to cost $400,000 to redevelop, and based on the market, the redeveloped property will sell for $250,000 to a homeowner, the Land Bank will “bridge the gap” with a $150,000 check at the closing to make the developer whole, according to its website. The funds come from a $5 million state grant, according to Arulampalam. Rental properties do not qualify for gap funding. [....]