Hartford CT property tax death spiral

apartment building
Hartford CT has been struggling for decades. One big problem is that people and businesses leave, moving to nearby, vastly more prosperous suburbs. Since Connecticut has no county governments or regional authorities to spread money around, Hartford gets no help from anywhere should, say, a big insurance company move to the town next door.

So Hartford has to get money somewhere. And unfortunately, that means through extremely high property taxes. Which just drives more people and business out.

Hartford property taxes are the highest in the state by far, with a nosebleed rate of $64.8 per thousand dollars of assessment per year. Nearby towns with vastly better services have substantially lower (but still steep) property taxes.

It’s a death spiral. The exodus out of Hartford means higher taxes for remaining property owners, causing some of them to leave, and the situation continues to worsen.

A two or three unit apartment building in Hartford might cost $150,000 and get you $750 a month in rent per unit – but property taxes could easily total $600 a month, with no assurance they won’t rise. A similar building a few miles away in upscale West Hartford might cost $100,000 more, but the property tax rate is 30% less and you could probably get $1,300 a month in rent per unit. It’s easy to guess where most investors will put their money.

Hartford is like a boxer who absorbs crushing punches and keeps going, even as the knees wobble a bit. But if you’re continually on defensive, there’s no time to make a new move or mount a new attack. A decaying core city surrounded by a circle of better-off areas happens too often in the US. So, how does the urban core of a city like Hartford get revitalized?

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