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Hartford homeowners get fresh start with rehab project help

(From left) Rebuilding Together Board of Directors Chair Janice Castle, Executive Director Don Chapman, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, and Hartford resident Crystal Van Allen speak at a press conference previewing an event where 20 Hartford homes will be spruced up by the nonprofit.
Abigail Brone
/
Connecticut Public
(From left) Rebuilding Together Board of Directors Chair Janice Castle, Executive Director Don Chapman, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, and Hartford resident Crystal Van Allen speak at a press conference previewing an event where 20 Hartford homes will be spruced up by the nonprofit.

Crystal Van Allen has lived in her Enfield Street home in Hartford since 1988. Van Allen raised her three children in the home and her mother also lived there before her death.

The historic home will be one of 19 refurbished Saturday by the Hartford chapter of the national nonprofit Rebuilding Together on its annual “National Rebuilding Day.”

“When I found out that I was chosen, I was really excited because I knew I wouldn't be able to do the repairs,” Van Allen said. “I’m retired on a fixed income and there would be no way I could afford these things. It gives me an opportunity to maybe stay in my house a little longer, maybe my last years will be spent here, I’m hoping.”

Van Allen’s home will receive minor improvements, such as a new toilet and vanity, basement steps, doorbell, fresh coats of paint in the bedrooms and various electrical outlet repairs.

Dozens of low-income residents submit applications for home improvements each year. Eligible applicants must meet income requirements, and be older than 60, have children under 18 or have a household member with a disability.

“We help as many people as our funding allows," said Rebuilding Together Executive Director Don Chapman. The more funding we have, the more we can spread that good will.”

“Sometimes what happens is that you live in a place for a long time, you work in that neighborhood, that community for a long time and you retire," Chapman said. "The cost of these improvements have gotten to be so expensive. Folks, their incomes don’t keep up with the actual improvements that they need.”

Sixteen homes in Hartford’s Upper Albany and Northeast neighborhoods will receive repairs, while an additional three homes will be fixed up by city contractors. More than 300 volunteers will work on the homes.

Over the last 28 years, about 600 Hartford homes were improved through the event, at no expense to the homeowners.

“Homeownership helps create more stable, strong, healthy neighborhoods and the truth is that in Hartford we have one of the lowest owner occupancy and homeowner rates in the state for sure, but even in the country,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “That's why this work of helping homeowners stay in their homes, fix up their homes and encourage others to become homeowners is so important to the strength and help of our community.”

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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