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Fairfield County is experiencing pandemic building boom. It's not expected to end anytime soon

A construction worker carries a sawhorse in front of a building being renovated in the Colonial Village public housing complex in Norwalk.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A construction worker carries a sawhorse in front of a building being renovated in the Colonial Village public housing complex in Norwalk.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, from 2020-22, more than 3,900 new apartments were built in Fairfield County as a result of the so-called “pandemic building boom. “

The highest number of new rental units were added to the market last year and it’s a trend that is expected to continue into next year.

The pandemic caused families to reconsider their goals and what they sought in a community. Many of them opted to leave larger cities like New York City for more suburban places such as Connecticut.

This year, the rental market in major Fairfield County cities, including Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, is expected to increase by about 1,295 units, according to a RentCafe study. Stamford will account for 724 of the new apartments.

The increase in construction isn’t expected to slow down over the next two years. And won’t lead to an immediate decrease in the cost of rent.

Rents should begin to dip at the end of the year, as apartments currently under construction become available and more options reach the market, according to RentCafe data analyst Doug Ressler.

“The more alternatives one has to choose from, the lower costs. So we expect you’ll see significant concessions being offered,” Ressler said.

The increase in construction is due to a combination of the economy emerging from the pandemic and a need for more housing stock nationwide.

Since 2020, the communities with the largest increase in new apartments were Norwalk, Stamford and Trumbull.

The rise in Norwalk’s population has been an ongoing trend in recent years. Home construction has also increased, but has yet to meet the demand, local real estate broker Jason Milligan said.

Milligan owns and operates Norwalk-based Milligan Realty, which manages hundreds of apartments throughout the city.

“If demand were to be satiated, then pricing would come down,” Milligan said. “But right now, there doesn't seem to be enough supply, and I think that even though they're improving and allowing you to build more with the zoning, it's still a slow process in Connecticut, Norwalk and Stamford.”

Zoning regulations in Fairfield County are part of what’s driving construction in the larger cities. With smaller, surrounding suburbs hesitant to add more apartment units or multi-family homes, it forces cities with the infrastructure and zoning laws in place to accommodate new construction and take on the brunt of the region’s increased housing demand.

“It's not fair to compare a city to a town just on what it's trying to achieve,” Milligan said. “The cities have a bit more infrastructure and can handle a bit more. It's like, you add a couple of taller buildings in Norwalk, Stamford, nobody notices it. You add one to Wilton, and it's the talk of the entire town for the entire year.”

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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