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Hartford, Springfield Workers Enjoy High Income, Moderate Housing Costs

By MARA LEE

July 27, 2010

Workers in Greater Hartford earn significantly more than equivalent workers in other parts of the country, a new report shows. And in nearly all other cities with similar salaries, houses cost more.

Hartford area workers make 10 percent above the national average, even after adjusting for the mix of jobs in each area, according to a report Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics based on July 2009 surveys. The region ranks fifth in the nation for salaries, tied with Seattle and Springfield, Mass.

Only in the San Francisco-Silicon Valley area of California, Salinas, Calif., the New York metro area and Boston-area do employers pay higher salaries. Silicon Valley and San Francisco workers led the list, making 20 percent more than the national average.

But where Hartford residents really benefit is in the relatively affordable housing stock. The National Association of Realtors said the cost of a mid-point house in the first quarter of 2010 was $225,900 far below Seattle, at $302,600, though workers there receive the same compensation as a similar worker here.

Economist Ron Van Winkle, the West Hartford town manager, said this report is significant and good news for central Connecticut.

"When you do compare against those areas there's no question that central Connecticut's affordability is quite strong," he said, referring to California, Boston and New York.

He said longtime residents don't realize how affordable it is here, because for years, Connecticut housing prices were so high relative to the rest of the country.

"If you go back 10 years, a little farther, central Connecticut had some of the highest housing prices. We became very unaffordable for people relocating," he said, which made it hard for local companies to recruit employees." If you found someone in Denver, they couldn't afford to move it was one of the burdens that Connecticut had for a number of years."

But no longer. In the first quarter of 2010, the median house price in metro Denver was $224,800; and the area's salaries ranked 10th in the country, at 4 percent above the national average.

Van Winkle said Greater Hartford's attractiveness goes beyond the fact that we have more disposable income. In a metro area like New York, Boston or Washington (No. 6 in salaries), not only is the median house anywhere from $67,000 to $155,000 more, but your drive or subway ride would take much longer to get to the house you could afford.

"You live so far out it's an hour's drive in, and hour's drive back," Van Winkle said, describing many suburbs of Boston. In the Hartford area, "your commute is substantially shorter. Which is another piece of that cost, particularly as energy gets more expensive, and your own time. Everybody talks about traffic in central Connecticut, but it's really nothing."

He said all of those things add up to a good quality of life in the Hartford region.

"This is something the state of Connecticut should be trumpeting," he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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