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Norwalk earns a top grade; national demand for apartments surges while the news business withers

NORWALK, Conn. – Some recent news stories that may merit your attention on this long holiday weekend:

 

Older folks having Best Life in Norwalk?

Norwalk scored a 57.41 on an Empty Nesting Index, making it the best city in Connecticut for older adults looking to downsize now that their children have grown and left the house, as far as BestLife is concerned.

This news come to you from The Daily Voice Plus, which posted a short story advertising the study and inspired two readers to alert NancyOnNorwalk on the distinction.

BestLife editors relied on data sourced from the U.S. Census, the technology firm Niche, the tax compliance experts at Avalara, official U.S. climate data, and Google Maps, they state, calling Norwalk “a cut above” nearby communities due to its “low tax rate, charming downtown, and bustling marina.”

 

Bring on the apartments

“Demand for rental apartments reached a five-year high this spring, spurred by new household formation and lagging home sales,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The problem with this link is that you need to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal to read the story. But you get the point, and that leads us to:

 

 

Jobs for journalists dwindle

“The news business is on pace for its worst job losses in a decade as about 3,000 people have been laid off or been offered buyouts in the first five months of this year,” Bloomberg reports.

“The level of attrition is the highest since 2009, when the industry saw 7,914 job cuts in the first five months of that year in the wake of the financial crisis, according to data compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement and executive coaching firm,” the article states.

That downturn resulted in the creation of NancyOnNorwalk and, frankly, contributed to the early demise of founding NoN editor Mark Chapman.

The Save Journalism project reports that 32,000 newspaper employees have been laid off in the last decade and 60% of U.S. counties have no daily newspaper.

18 comments

Sue Haynie July 5, 2019 at 6:33 am

The article regarding ’empty nesters’ refers to a ‘low tax rate’ of 6.35%–they’re talking about the Sales Tax for CT.

I knew there was something wrong when they used the words ‘low tax rate’ and Norwalk, with its outrageously high property tax rates, in the same sentence.

Al Bore July 5, 2019 at 9:21 am

Our current administration gave us cheap looking giant apartment buildings, a massive mall that will probably fail and took away our skyline for ever. With apartment buildings you get overcrowding, traffic, an over burdened infrastructure, and builder tax breaks for which the home owners of Norwalk have to pay for. Norwalk is so crowded that residents could not get into the beach this holiday 4th because it was closed due to the over crowding. The article should read Norwalk wins top spot for for apartment surges in the state, with Harry Rilling as the author. Harry must think Norwalk is a better place now that you can’t move about the city streets anymore. Gone are the days of people coming to Norwalk to buy a home and raise a family, now they rent here until they can afford to move to one of the surrounding towns to avoid traffic and big city life. Norwalk’s new slogan is “inching forward in stop and go traffic all day every day”. What a shame!

Gordon Tully July 5, 2019 at 10:15 am

A good measure of whether your property taxes are excessive is Proposition 2 1/2 in Massachusetts that passed in 1980. This effort was initiated by Citizens for Limited Taxation after Proposition 13 in California passed in 1978. The California initiative limited property taxes to 1% of assessed value, and the Massachusetts one to 2-1/2%. I encourage you to read the Wikipedia entries for both initiatives. The upshot for both was that state taxes increased to compensate for the lost revenue. It turns out that there are services that citizens will not allow to be cut, and that taxes are adjusted to provide them. If the state does it, there is the potential to even out the inequity of a rich community with fewer services to the needy but much higher tax revenue versus communities like Norwalk and Bridgeport with the opposite. Whether this has been done in Norwalk is another subject. As for the numbers, CT assesses at 70% of market value.. So if you take 2 1/2% as a reasonable rate that means if your taxes are greater the 1.75% of market value, you have been taxed more than 2-1/2%. When we sold our house in Norwalk our taxes were 1.74% of its sales price.

LadyDrivr July 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

The last paragraph hits “home” (sorry for the pun), many Norwalkers won’t be able to afford their first home either.

Referenced wsj article:

Demand for rental apartments reached a five-year high this spring, spurred by new household formation and lagging home sales.

The number of new apartment move-ins in the second quarter of 2019 increased 11% over the same period last year, according to a national report scheduled to be released Monday by real-estate analytics firm RealPage . The demand surge drove the national occupancy rate to 95.8%, compared with 95.4% at the end of the second quarter of 2018, the report said.

RealPage’s chief economist Greg Willett attributed the increase in the second quarter partly to economic uncertainty that slowed the market in the first quarter. “This is catch-up,” he said.

Demand grew particularly in Chicago and Houston. Move-ins in those markets outpaced apartment construction by nearly 3 to 1, RealPage data showed.

Monthly rental prices nationwide shot up 3% from the second quarter of 2018 to the same period this year. Many small metros saw bigger increases. Rents rose 7.4% in Wilmington, N.C., and 6.4% in Huntsville, Ala., according to the report.

Although apartment construction is near the highest it has been in 30 years, much of that new supply is targeting higher-income earners, Mr. Willett said.

With little new affordable supply, the market for lower-cost rentals is much tighter. Most of the new supply “doesn’t really help the consumer in [lower-end] housing where it’s already full,” said Mr. Willett.

The volume of existing-home sales on an annualized basis has fallen for 15 straight months. But the asking price of homes is still increasing at a rate that is faster than income growth.

The shallowing buyer pool and the lack of affordable homes has helped fuel the demand for rentals, said Calvin Schnure, economic analyst at the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts. “There’s a shortage of every type of housing,” he said, noting construction hasn’t kept pace with population growth.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it would explore using federal programs to reduce local barriers to housing construction, such as restrictive zoning. Freddie Mac also released a survey showing that American renters increasingly believe they will never afford to buy their own home.

Claire Schoen July 5, 2019 at 10:45 am

Making sure that everyone saw the last piece – and that you are all contributing at least something towards Nancy’s efforts. News coverage isn’t free – but thankfully your donations are tax deductible!

Piberman July 5, 2019 at 11:15 am

Punitive property taxes, falling property taxes, exodus from an overtaxed State make purchasing homes in CT a dubious (to be polite) purchase. No wonder the new generations are seeking apartments rather than buying homes that will be worth far less in the years ahead. Westport, holding taxes steady for 5 years, has given Norwalk a powerful reminder of “competence” in City governance.

A good example of CT’s Gold Coast “great real estate sell off” is New Caanan’s 2nd highest valued property. Purchased during the last Recession at more than 10 mil. its been listed for.2 years now with no takers even at just $5 mil.

Even college freshman economics students learn that renters do not pay their full share of taxes to provide City services. So we know the future of Norwalk’s homeowners – now comprising less than 60% of City residents. CT’s renter dominant cities are all failing.

Piberman July 5, 2019 at 11:39 am

Zillow shows 664 homes for sale in Norwalk. An increase of about 12% from 2018 (Redfin). CT’s Exodus is alive and well in Norwalk as in the Gold Coast with 4,000 + homes for sale (Zillow). CT has many more homes for sale than much larger Massachusetts (Zillow). And Bloomberg News recently reported CT has more residents exiting than any other State. These reports do not suggest a “retirement Valhalla”’ Just the reverse.

Paul Lanning July 5, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Calf Pasture was closed due to overcrowding on the 4th?

Norwalk residents were turned away from their own park?

If true, that is outrageous.

Out-of-town visitors to our beach pay a bargain-basement price of $40 per vehicle (including SUVs and mini-vans carrying 6 or 8 people). It costs that much just to park at Yankee Stadium, never mind the price of a seat.

The $40 price is mandated by CT state law because Calf Pasture admission is free for Norwalk residents. By charging residents a meager $2.00 fee for a seasonal resident beach pass, Norwalk would gain the right to charge non-residents any admission fee decided upon.

Debora Goldstein July 5, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Paul,

When the land was deeded to Norwalk for the beach, it was on condition that Norwalkers not be charged. Even if we did start with a $2 fee, it would soon be raised.

A better policy might be to offer o-o-t visitors a cheaper rate to park elsewhere and shuttle them to the beach. Less cars on the road, more room for the locals.

Al Bore July 5, 2019 at 1:38 pm

To further burden the tax paying home owners of Norwalk we are asked to go above and beyond the state average of affordable housing units which means my property tax is not affordable for me. There should be a mandatory amount that every city and towns in CT must meet for affordable housing so everyone shares the cost of give aways and tax incentives to builders. Let the surrounding towns start to do their fair share of affordable housing, instead they fight it and then march in Norwalk asking us to give more.

Jason Milligan July 5, 2019 at 2:05 pm

The term “Affordable” is highly misleading. In CT it has more to do with government control through deed restriction than price.

Apartments that rent at or below the “affordable” threshold only count if there is a deed restriction, and you comply with the onerous standards and financial reporting.

I personally own approximately 30 apartments that consistently rent below the “affordable” maximum price but they are not counted as “affordable”. In fact they count as not affordable.

Whereas Team McClutchy would count 100% of his proposed apartments eventhough rents would be as high as $3000.

The system is broken. It is misleading. Unscrupulous developers and banks pretend to care about people that are poor while taking huge advantage of the highly flawed system.

Paul Lanning July 5, 2019 at 3:35 pm

Deb, thank you—

The off-site parking/shuttle scenario wouldn’t address overcrowding on the sand and in the water.

Ensuring Norwalkers’ access supersedes meticulous adherence to a deed provision that is now causing the opposite effect of what was intended.

Pamela Parkington July 6, 2019 at 5:41 am

Paul & Deb, the low fee for out of Towners has nothing to do with the deed. It is because of the Greenwich beach lawsuit settlement years ago which limits what we charge out of towners.

Norwalk is the only municipality on the coast of CT that doesn’t charge it’s residents and charges the lowest fees for non residents.

We are also listed as one of the best beaches to visit in CT.

Other towns residents fees have stayed static, while continually increasing their non resident fees.

It’s the perfect storm, we are a great beach, cheap to get into and right off I95. So unless we start charging residents this is going to continue to happen and only get worse.🤷‍♀️

Milly July 6, 2019 at 6:20 am

The new system of cars driving into the beach and then paying a company $180,000 to drive around and fine whoever hasn’t paid is ridiculous. The solution was to keep the booth at the entrance and limit the amount of cars without the required pass to come in.

Paul Lanning July 6, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Charging non-residents $40 per vehicle and then turning residents away because the lot is full is unacceptable.

Moreover, when the non-residents don’t even pay the $40, it’ll cost more than $40 for Norwalk to take them to court.

Why do we have this mess, and how do we fix it? Calf Pasture is a much nicer place for out-of-towners to spend a summer day than Westport’s Compo Beach. Yet Westport charges non-residents $65 per car on Saturdays and Sundays, and has a 100-car non-resident limit.

Debora Goldstein July 6, 2019 at 2:47 pm

Pam,

I never said the low fee for o-o-t was tied to the deed restriction, someone else did.

I was responding only to the suggestion that we charge Norwalkers.

Pointing out that we are the only community that doesn’t charge its residents suggests we have a choice, and is counter-productive.

Folks may not like my suggestion, but at least I offered one that is viable.

I agree with Milly and Paul. The new parking enforcement decreases access for residents without an appreciable upside.

Charging residents would ensure that many of our own less well-to-do residents are shut out while our well-to-do o-o-t visitors take over their beach.

This city appears unable to regulate anything without charging for it, which is a crying shame.

Eve July 7, 2019 at 2:56 pm

When I read this article I couldn’t believe what I was reading! Best place for empty nesters? Charming downtown?? Really? Have you been to Wall Street lately??? Charming downtown ‘s would be in Greenwich , New Cannan , Westport and the like but Wall Street !!! That is downtown Norwalk which is a disgrace! ! To think that Norwalk is so affordable for empty nesters is a laugh!! Try to have anything repaired lately? We pay for the title of The Golfd coast! Property is very expensive to buy even to down size!! And the new system with the beach is so ridiculous!! I who thought of that! What it’s costing us and getting a handle on non residents this isn’t an improvement. There was notihing wrong with what we had!! Cars couldn’t even enter the beach without stopping and getting checked . Now anyone can drive right in!! What’s wrong with this picture.? But thanks to everyone’s comments I learned something’s I wasn’t aware of.

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