HARTFORD, CT – The Hartford Land Bank on Friday unveiled its first revitalized property, the beginning of a project that organization representatives say will help transform neighborhoods and boost housing opportunities for city residents.
During a press conference attended by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin as well as local developers and staff from the Hartford Land Bank, officials unveiled the completely remodeled wood frame, two-family home at 103 Earle St. in the city’s Northeast section. The building, dating back to the 1920s, was falling apart and was even slanted at one point.
“It had to go through major stabilization to be useable again,” Bronin said. “This transformation is dramatic and it matters not just for this property but for the entire street. Every property on Earle Street benefits from taking a blighted building and turning it into a beautiful building like you see here behind us. Our goal is to do that again and again and again and again throughout Hartford neighborhoods.”
Bronin said the renovation projects create opportunities locally, for small- to medium-sized contractors, and minority-owned contractors, so they can give back to the community as well as build equity and wealth.
Bronin said another Hartford Land Bank property on Garden Street will have a ribbon cutting in about a month.
Yahaira Escribano, finance and programs officer for the Hartford Land Bank, said that $20 million in bonds was included in the recently-signed state budget to create a statewide Home Ownership Investment Fund.
Arunan Arulampalam, CEO of Hartford Land Bank, said the money from the Home Ownership Investment Fund will be used in qualified census tracts. According to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, such a tract must have 50% of households with incomes below 60% of the Area Median Gross Income (AMGI), or have a poverty rate of 25% or more. Funds must be used by developers who live in the same municipality the housing is built in.
“Since the Land Bank created a developers cohort training program for Hartford residents, we think our developers are uniquely equipped to take advantage of those dollars,” Arulampalam said. He added that the bonding will be administered through Connecticut’s Urban Act, so it will come without deed restrictions.
While the item was included in the budget, the State Bond Commission still has to approve it, officials said.
Menard “Tex” Sampson, who was also present at the ceremony Friday, purchased 103 Earle Street in July 2021 and along with his crew, installed new windows, siding, porches, heating and a new roof. Workers also remodeled the interior. New tenants will move in later this month, officials said.
“He is a local developer of color. He has done really good work,” said Arulampalam. “This is the type of property I would put my own family in.”
Arulampalam said he hopes, through the land bank’s work, that the impact will be more people owning homes. Homeownership in Hartford stands at 24%, which is the lowest in the state, he said.
103 Earle St. is one of seven initial parcels transferred from the City of Hartford to the Hartford Land Bank in January 2021. The land bank came about because the city was having a hard time trying to find a way to improve blighted properties, Bronin said.
Even though the city put liens on properties and imposed fines, nothing much happened, he said.
“The city never went further than that because if the city took ownership of a property, it didn’t have anything to do with it,” Bronin said. “It would just sit on that blighted property.”
The Hartford Land Bank is an independent nonprofit that works to ensure that buildings go back to someone who will care for the property, rehabilitate it and put it back on the tax rolls, Bronin added.
The Hartford Land Bank began in 2020, after the state allocated $5 million for its creation. Other entities, such as the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, have provided funding for the land bank as it works to acquire and rehabilitate blighted properties in the city.
“Instead of being a weight that pulls the neighborhood down, be an example of investment and confidence that lifts the neighborhood up,” Bronin said.