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What's going on with the housing shortage in CT? A 'Fortune' reporter offers some reasons

Real estate lockbox hanging on a door in New Haven County.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Real estate lockbox hanging on a door in New Haven County.

The Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport areas have lost more "for sale" housing inventory since the pandemic began than have all major housing markets in country, except for Allentown, Pennsylvania. That's according to statistics compiled by Realtor.com.

Fortune Magazine housing market reporter Lance Lambert pointed out in a recent tweet that those three metro areas have each seen inventory declines of between 74-80% since 2019. He talked about the stark difference in Harford’s inventory in May of this year vs. four years ago.

“In Hartford, there were just 882 homes available for sale,” Lambert said. “In May 2019, there were 4467. So for every five homes available for sale in Hartford in May 2019. There's just one now. That's an 80% decline.”

Lambert says that scarcity of housing supply-combined with higher interest rates-have led to skyrocketing prices for the few houses that do become available.

“98% of Connecticut ZIP codes just set a new all-time high for price in May,” Lambert said. “It's the worst of both worlds for buyers, right now, in Connecticut. Very little inventory for sale and very pressurized affordability.”

So, what explains Connecticut’s overheated housing market, even in the face of rising prices and interest rates?

“Demand has not pulled back that much, despite the mortgage rate spike," Lambert said. "And so in some markets out West, like Austin, Boise, Las Vegas, those places softened and active listings grew as demand pulled back and home sat on the market longer. That hasn't exactly happened in Connecticut. And one of the reasons being is that while home prices are up quite a bit, they weren't up the 60 or 70% in two years that markets like Austin and Boise."

Another factor is construction.

"There's just not much building in Connecticut," Lambert said. "I think it was just like 2,000 homes for permits for Connecticut versus places out West and down in the southwest where there's lots of construction.”

Connecticut lawmakers recently passed an omnibus housing bill that included a strengthening of tenants' rights. But the measure did not include what many hoped it would: Mandates for towns to zone more areas for affordable housing construction.

More housing permits and construction are needed to address the state's housing shortage, Lambert said.

Learn more

Explore Lambert's reporting here.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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