At Newtown Press Conference: Rain Does Not Dampen Governor's Enthusiasm For Soaring State Housing Market
Governor Ned Lamont came to Newtown Friday, October 23, to hold a misty midday press conference touting Connecticut’s booming housing market, and promoting the state and Newtown as ideal places to live. With a moving van as a backdrop the governor was joined by local officials and the current and incoming presidents of the Connecticut Realtors Association.
Ditching an umbrella he was holding to ward off the drizzle, Lamont stepped to the podium, looked skyward, and remarked, “The sun is always shining in Newtown, although you may not always know it.
“I love Newtown and I think people are rediscovering the great state of Connecticut. This is just part of a trend I see in Newtown and Fairfield County,” the governor said. “I think people are rediscovering the Connecticut lifestyle and what it means.”
Lamont recalled the naysayers as he was taking office who were pointing to “all the moving vans heading out of the state” and comments like “the last one out turn off the lights.”
“But no more. Those moving vans are turning around and more people are coming — tens of thousands of people have changed their address to the state in the last few months,” Lamont said. “They’re buying, they’re renting, and they’re building. While residential construction is up two, maybe two-and-a-half percent around the country, it’s up to about 18 percent here — one of the highest in the country.”
Lamont said many of those relocating are young people who love that Connecticut schools are open, and there is so much open space like Newtown has.
Latest Trends Report
The governor came to town after the real estate company RE/MAX released a monthly survey showing Connecticut as having one of the best metrics in the country for home sales.
“I’ve always said I don’t want more taxes, but I don’t mind more taxpayers,” the governor said. “And what that means in terms of our economy and our budget. Our budget deficit is down dramatically thanks to a lot of people moving into our state, more people paying sales tax, a lot of people going to our restaurants as we work to keep them open. It puts us in a much stronger position economically than some of our peers.”
The report indicated the Hartford area, which includes parts of Middlesex, Hartford, and Tolland Counties, saw a 33.3 percent increase in closed sales in September, and the governor noted that only Billings, Montana and San Francisco saw more closings at 37.1 and 34.7 percent, respectively.
Additionally, in July 2020, RE/MAX said of the markets with the lowest Months Supply of Inventory there was a two-way tie between Albuquerque, N.M. and Boise, Idaho at 0.7, and a four-way tie among Phoenix, Ariz., Manchester, N.H., Washington, DC, and the metro Hartford region at 0.9.
Outgoing Connecticut Association of Realtors President Joanne Breen and incoming President Tammy Felenstein both echoed that from the front lines, home sales across the region have been brisk, even throughout the pandemic emergency, with low inventory and in many cases high competition for most available properties.
Breen praised Lamont for deeming Realtors as part of the essential workforce during the pandemic, saying there were 10,000 open transactions in progress back in the late winter when COVID-19 rolled into the state.
“This is the busiest year we’ve seen in the past 12 here in Connecticut,” Breen said. “I think with the pandemic, the whole idea of home and the way people feel about home has changed. It’s not the place where you crash at the end of a long work day — it’s the place you work, where you school your children, where you have recreational activities in your own back yard.”
Felenstein said representing Fairfield County, she is seeing countless situations where people are moving to her service area from the metro New York area, including many who are purchasing second homes in communities like Newtown.
“The stories are countless,” she said. “We have people coming from New York who were paying astronomical prices for a few hundred square feet, and for the same money, they can come here [and] for around the same amount, they can get a four bedroom house with two-and-a-half baths, and a yard, and an office, and a pool. It’s time to come get a piece of Connecticut, because it’s only going to get better here.”
Telling Newtown's Story
Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told reporters and visitors that local Realtors are doing a great job telling Newtown’s story, and selling its many positives. He also praised local and state officials, school district leaders, law enforcement, and the local economic and community development agency for all working together to help promote the community to newcomers and new commercial entities, as well.
“I’m really pleased with all the activity we’re seeing,” the first selectman said regarding home sales. “I’m happy to see our Realtors as busy as they’ve been — I’m hearing from all of them that it’s busier than it has been in years.”
State Rep Mitch Bolinsky also reflected that Newtown has much to offer to those looking to relocate, particularly in terms of its vast tracts of open space and parks.
“This community is one giant green space,” Bolinsky said. “This is a place of peace and a place that people can feel relatively safe in this time of COVID. And it’s been dramatic the way real estate has started to move in Newtown, and I credit all Connecticut Realtors for being able to keep up with it.”
Town Community & Economic Development official Christal Preszler said she and her fellow economic development colleagues love it when people come to visit Newtown and then discover it is where they want to live.
“I’m so glad you’re here because we really love sharing our community,” Preszler told the crowd that numbered about 30. “We have some large businesses here, but also a lot of smaller mom and pop shops, and we’ve had about five ribbon cuttings at new businesses in the past few weeks. There’s dining and entertainment, green spaces, arts and culture, waterways, hiking trails, and historic Main Street. So whether you live, work, or visit here, there’s something for everybody.”
Responding To Questions
Lamont and Rosenthal fielded questions on a number of subjects from nearly a dozen print and electronic media sources. Responding to one about how the booming real estate market is impacting traffic in town, Rosenthal responded, “I’d rather cars driving in than leaving.”
Recognizing there are infrastructure challenges, the first selectman said Newtown is working with the state in numerous areas to mitigate traffic bottlenecks related to state roadways.
On a question about whether the state’s newfound popularity is causing more younger and working class homeowners to be priced out of the market, Lamont said he believes in having affordable housing opportunities, particularly in walkable urban areas where there is also access to mass transit and numerous social and cultural activities.
“We just need to manage our growth in a way that still preserves open space, and make sure the people who work in town can afford to live in town,” Lamont said.
Rosenthal pointed out multiple housing starts in Newtown are apartment complexes with designated affordable cross sections. He also noted that despite state metrics that define the percentage of affordable housing units as private homes with deed restrictions, those same homes without deed restrictions would reflect an affordability rate of nearly 30 percent.
“It’s about offering housing that is inclusive,” he said. “A vibrant community is one that has a lot of diversity in its housing, and I think we’re seeing that in some of the [residential] development that’s taking place, which in some cases is new for Newtown. But if you keep things the way they always were, your town is the one people are driving through to the town they’re intending to go to.”
“I’m really pleased to be able to celebrate what’s going on in Newtown, as our communities come back to life and young people continue to rediscover what it’s all about,” Lamont said.