Elizabeth Burke's parents came from Georgia to Hartford on their honeymoon and never left. They created a home and a connection to the city and as an adult, Elizabeth always wanted to return to the place that meant so much to her family growing up.
An affordable apartment in the newly renovated Hollander building in downtown Hartford was her opportunity to do just that. As the mother of an adult son and grandmother of two energetic children, Elizabeth never thought she would be able to live in such a vibrant rental community. The home she used to rent in Windsor was falling into disrepair with mold and dust problems. Rent did not include utilities and it was always a struggle to keep the temperature comfortable, especially with oil heat. Coupled with her allergy problems, it did not make sense for her to remain there with her son no longer living with her.
Elizabeth and her grandchildren
When she lost her job and became ill, she worried she might not get to see her dream to move back to the city become a reality. But management assured her that she would be able to make the Hollander her home. Almost two years later Elizabeth is content in her spacious one bedroom apartment situated in the heart of Hartford.
"Everyone knows my name. There are tax credit units and market rate units but you can't tell which is which."
The "tax credit units" at the Hollander have been made affordable through the use of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Before becoming unemployed, Elizabeth worked for the Urban League of Greater Hartford. It was ironic she thought, that she helped people obtain services and housing on a daily basis, but when it came to her own life she just couldn’t make the pieces fit together. She discovered the Hollander building when the management gave Urban League employees a tour of the unfinished project, hoping to be a housing referral site for Urban League clients. Elizabeth scooped up an available spot before the paint in her soon-to-be apartment had even dried.
Elizabeth commented that the apartment is the "best thing" to happen to her because it gave her a quiet, secure and stable environment to live in when she was struggling. Now her grandchildren have Bushnell Park across the street as their playground when they come visit her. They can catch a bus right in front of the building and be anywhere else in the city within minutes. There are always places to go eat and be entertained.
Elizabeth is back, living in the city she has always worked in and dedicated her spare time to. As she recuperates from being sick, it is a great place for her to be.
"I went for a walk the other day," she said, "and just didn’t want to stop." When she is not outside, she can view the great outdoors and the splendor of Hartford from her large, weatherized windows.
A woman of many talents, Elizabeth hopes to be able to focus more on her baking. Her skills in the kitchen are often requested for events throughout the community. The kitchen, with its ample counter and cabinet space and new oven and dishwasher, has allowed her to take on large baking endeavors. Eventually she would love to attach herself to a coffee shop or caterer, providing for all of their baking needs. Proving their commitment to their residents, the management team at the Hollander is always attempting to pitch her services to perspective renters of the mixed-use space on the first floor of the building.
Eventually Elizabeth would like to find an affordable two-bedroom apartment to rent, but she does not want to leave the community at the Hollander. As a testimony to how much her family loves the space, her son and grandkids will soon be moving into another apartment, a floor above her own.