Signs Of Gentrification In Connecticut’s Cities

By: Faith Evanson, Research Associate

Connecticut has been suffering from a housing shortage of homes that are affordable and readily available for low-income residents. Debates over the cause of this crisis have been mixed, and some analysts have characterized Connecticut as a seller’s market where homes are routinely sold for greater than their value. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly didn’t help the market as the state endured a record high number of evictions according to the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.  One phenomenon that is present at all levels has been the pricing out of renters who until recently were able to afford their rent. This raises suspicions of gentrification especially in urban centers that are undergoing urban renewal.

For the purposes of this report, gentrification can be defined as the socioeconomic upgrading of a previously low-income, central city neighborhood, characterized by the influx of higher socioeconomic status residents and an increase in housing prices.1

The 5 cities chosen for this report are:

  1. Bridgeport
  2. New Haven
  3. Norwalk
  4. Stamford
  5. Waterbury

Cities were chosen based on the following criteria: all must be an urban city, located in Connecticut, where the median income was below the 75th percentile state and national incomes in the year 2000, and has grown in population since the year 2000.

All data in this report comes from the US Census in the years 2000, 2010, and 2020. The surveys utilized were the Decennial Survey and the American Community Survey.

One way to view gentrification is as a two-step process. The first step is a change in the financial demographic makeup of a city, and the second step is a change in the social demographics of a city. A change in social demographics could include changes in educational attainment, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, marital status, etc.

When quantifying gentrification, demographic and financial shifts are considered significant when there is at least a fifty percent change.2 Gentrification also cannot be defined as just a demographic change in a community. Communities must satisfy both “steps” to be considered gentrified. 

National

Housing and Educational Characteristics200020102020
 Median Rent$602$855$1,097
 % high school or higher84.1%87.14%91.07%
 % bachelor’s degree or higher26.7%29.9%37.86%

Housing Attributes in the US- Census data; Educational Attainment in the US- Census data

Connecticut

Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent$681$992$1,201
Median Mortgage$1,426$2,068$2,127
Median Home Value$166,900$288,800$279,700

Decennial Census – CT

1. Bridgeport

Housing and Educational Characteristics2000-20102010-20202000-2020
% Change in Median Rent49.9%15.6%73.2%
% Change in Median Mortgage61.9%– 6.2%51.8%
% Change in Median Home Value86.6%– 15.2%58.3%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher34.9%19.3%61.0%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a High School Degree or Higher12.3%4.3%17.2%
Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent$557$835$965
Median Mortgage$1,266$2,049$1,922
Median Home Value$117,500$219,300$186,000

2. New Haven

Housing and Educational Characteristics2000-20102010-20202000-2020
% Change in Median Rent47%17.8%73.2%
% Change in Median Mortgage47%15.4%49.4%
% Change in Median Home Value77.2%– 6.3%66.1%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher13.2%42.1%60.8%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a High School Degree or Higher10.8%8%19.6%

New Haven is, of course, home to Yale University which brings many students, professors, academics, fellows, and so forth to live in the area. The school has also increased its enrollment and has opened new professional schools. Much of the community that Yale brings only resides in the city for a limited amount of time. Thus, the demographic information regarding education may be skewed by this data. However, the school also brings in tremendous amounts of growth to the city and has been labeled a gentrifier of New Haven by its own faculty and students.

Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent$570$838$987
Median Mortgage$1,365$2,008$2,039
Median Home Value$151,900$269,200$252,300

3. Norwalk

Housing and Educational Characteristics2000-20102010-20202000-2020
% Change in Median Rent44.7%33.6%91.8%
% Change in Median Mortgage50.8%1.6%53.3%
% Change in Median Home Value56.8%32.1%62.5%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher21.9%4.6%27.5%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a High School Degree or Higher10.2%– 3.5%6.3%
Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent76911521527
Median Mortgage180927282773
Median Home Value270100432600438900

4. Stamford

Housing and Educational Characteristics2000-20102010-20202000-2020
% Change in Median Rent35.4%35.7%83.8%
% Change in Median Mortgage22.8%13%38.8%
% Change in Median Home Value46.9%1.8%49.4%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher4.7%26%31.9%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a High School Degree or Higher– 0.3%8.9%8.6%
Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent$932$1,262$1,713
Median Mortgage$2,203$2,705$3,057
Median Home Value$362,300$532,100$541,600

5. Waterbury

Housing and Educational Characteristics2000-20102010-20202000-2020
% Change in Median Rent51.9%13.7%72.7%
% Change in Median Mortgage49%–  6.6%39.2%
% Change in Median Home Value54.6%– 15.3%31%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher21.9%4.1%26.8%
% Change in Proportion of Residents with a High School Degree or Higher9.5%5.2%15.2%
Housing Costs200020102020
Median Rent$472$717$815
Median Mortgage$1,115$1,661$1,552
Median Home Value$101,300$156,600$132,700

***The educational characteristics for this report only include the portion of the population that is 25 years old and above. This is to account for children and most youth who do not participate directly in the housing market.

Waterbury, Stamford, and Norwalk all have significant growth in their respective financial housing characteristics such as median rent and mortgage, but gentrification may not be the explanation for the growth in these cities as education level appears to grow steadily and slowly. However, Bridgeport and New Haven are seeing dramatic changes in the composition of their cities. For all five cities, rent seems to be the most volatile price while mortgages seem to be the most stable. One way in which this report falls short though, is a lack of analysis on whether age, gender, or marital status may come into play.

The volatility of rent prices suggests there needs to be a larger focus on the impact of the housing market of renters. Market value of homes is growing proportionally to the cost of mortgages; thus, it may be of interest to look at gross selling prices of homes and the type of mortgages that are being contracted. This may uncover what is driving the seller’s market in Connecticut. Overall, the most vulnerable group in Connecticut are low-income renters.

1Lei Ding, Jackelyn Hwang, Eileen Divringi, Gentrification and residential mobility in Philadelphia, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Volume 61, 2016, Pages 38-51, ISSN 0166-0462, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2016.09.004.

2Hirsch J A, Schinasi L H. A measure of gentrification for use in longitudinal public health studies based in the United States. Philadelphia, PA: Drexel University Urban Health Collaborative; August 2019

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