Valley News Editorial: The plight of Hartford’s unpopulated divisions

Publication date: 5/9/2022 10:23:02 AM
Modified date: 5/9/2022 10:23:01 AM

When a housing project faces a problem, opposition generally focuses on two things: where it will be built, and who will live in it. Of course, the concern is generally stronger among the neighbors who live close to the site and will be hit the hardest. Sometimes, though, proposals have broader implications for the community as a whole, as now before the Hartford Planning Commission and City Zoning Board.

The project, proposed by the nonprofit Twin Pines Housing Fund, will locate 18 low-income one-bedroom apartments in a three-story building on land to be purchased from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, adjacent to the Upper Valley Haven campus along Route 5 in the Taft Flat section of City.

The idea is very simple: to provide permanent housing to some of the townspeople who are chronically homeless while their lives stabilize and to try to get back on their feet again. Residents of the complex, which is open to people of both genders, will be required to sign a one-year lease and pay 30% of their income as rent, while a wide range of support services are offered by The Haven, which plans to build a new building nearby in part to provide this access. Residents will undergo a security screening; Those convicted of sexual offenses, drug trafficking, or violent offenses will not be eligible to live there.

Neighbors object to the project’s aesthetics and intensity; allegedly out of sync with the residential character of the area; It raises safety concerns. The latter focuses on assertions that schoolchildren are indeed harassed by the homeless, presumably residing in Haven. These particular allegations require a response from Haven, Hartford Police and nearby schools.

As mentioned above, it seems to us that the opposition mostly boils down to who will reside in the apartments. The neighbors, and at least a rowdy minority of other townspeople, feel that Hartford and Lebanon have done more than their fair share when it comes to hosting affordable housing, and that the wealthier neighboring communities to the north should start doing their part to tackle the problem.

This frustration is reasonable and understandable, but not doable. These more affluent communities are always happy to play their part as long as affordable housing—not to mention housing for the homeless—fits seamlessly into the dignified single-family homes that line their streets; not in visible proximity to their city gate; It has a compact footprint but has a low density; “green” without being weighed down by unsightly solar panels; do not touch the premium agricultural land; close to city services but will not be a burden to them; It will not add traffic. In other words, practically never.

It should be noted that there are also Hartford residents who prefer the Twin Pines proposal. At a hearing late last month, the planning committee heard not only from opponents but also from people who argued that the project would address pressing issues in the community as well as benefit the neighborhood.

The truth is that Hartford has a relatively large homeless population, and it probably won’t go away, despite the best efforts of some in the city to dislodge them from camp sites and homemade shelters through zoning restrictions and city law enforcement actions. Hartford is home to the social services, public transportation and municipal infrastructure needed to help the unfortunate.

Last fall, as the town was clearing homeless camps before winter, a townspeople told our colleague Jim Kenyon, “I’m not against the homeless. Some of them are really struggling. But some are abusing the system. Why don’t they try to put themselves in a position to get jobs? And an apartment?”

This seems to be an urgent question that Twin Pines and Haven are trying to answer with their interconnected proposals. Perhaps there are better answers. We haven’t heard any one yet.

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