Neighborhoods Where Hartford Habitat Has Built Homes And Why It Matters

Examining Opportunity and Income in Census Tracts

by Victoria Asfalg and Riley Nichols

Last updated on December 9, 2021

for Data Visualization for All
with Prof. Jack Dougherty
Trinity College, Hartford CT, USA



Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity is an organization that works in Hartford County, Connecticut (soon to expand to Tolland County) that builds and refurbishes high-quality yet affordable homes with the goal of increasing homeownership rates while promoting self-sufficiency (source). Since the chapter began in 1989, Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity has built or refurbished a total of 265 homes. Between 1989 and 2018, they have served over 300 families, and continue to serve the area with a goal of helping 50 families a year (source). Habitat makes homeownership affordable because they are able to provide a 0% interest rate mortgage (source).

Our group worked with this organization’s data to investigate the question “In what types of neighborhoods is Habitat for Humanity Hartford Area building homes?” This question is relevant to the work that Habitat does because building homes that people are happy with is important to Habitat. In 2020 Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity published the Reflective Report on the Impact of Homeownership. Among the findings were statistics on how residents felt about their neighborhood. For example, “19% said that safety was one of the things that they liked best about their neighborhood while 32% said that safety was one of the things that they liked least” (source). The fact that Habitat is reporting on this information shows that they care about more than just the quality of the homes themselves.

Habitat Homes by Opportunity Index

Our first neighborhood criteria that we looked at was the Open Communities Alliance’s Opportunity Index. The Opportunity Index is a measure of how opportunity rich or how opportunity isolated communities across Connecticut are (source). The OCA formed this index by evaluating nine indicators of opportunity for each census tract in Connecticut (source). The darker the color of the region, the more opportunity is said to come with being in that region.

Figure 1 | click here to view the map on the Open Communities Alliance website.

We matched the OCA’s opportunity index data with our data of where Habitat homes are located and created a chart to visualize our findings. What we found was that the large majority (86%) of Habitat homes have been built in census tracts labeled as “Very Low” opportunity areas, although a few Habitat homes were built in “Moderate” and “Very High” opportunity areas, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 | Link to Interactive Chart

Habitat Homes by Income Level

The second neighborhood criteria that we looked at was income level. First, we gathered median household income data from Social Explorer using the American Community Survey data from 2015-2019. We then decided to create a histogram to visualize the distribution and concentration of median household income in Hartford County. We used this chart to logically separate income into three categories: low-income, middle-income, and high-income to allow a simplistic yet effective visualization of the economic spread of neighborhoods. We categorized this data by the criteria that average household income is less than $50k a year would be considered “low-Income,” average household income between $50k and $100k would be considered “middle-Income,” and average household income above $100k would be considered “high-Income” and calculated the percentage of Habitat homes in each income-based category.

Figure 3 | Link to Interactive Chart

This data gives necessary information about the socio-economic context of the locations of homes built by Habitat for Humanity in Hartford and Tolland County. What we discovered was that the large majority (92%) of Habitat homes have been built in neighborhoods that we considered to be in “low-income” census tracts.


In order to create the Income Level Map, Riley and Victoria used data from the 2019 US Census Bureau to find the median household income of each census tract in Hartford County. We then used the V-Lookup feature on Google Sheets to link together the location of homes that had been built by Habitat for Humanity to the census tract data to find the house-hold income of the neighborhoods where each Habitat home was constructed. Riley then looked at the income of each neighborhood and separated the location of Habitat homes into the high, middle, or low income category. Then, she used a pivot table to count the number of homes in each income category and calculated the percentage of each group and put the information into Datawrapper to create a column chart for proper visualization.

To create the Opportunity Index chart, we used the publicly available data from the Open Community Alliance’s website on how they created their opportunity map. Victoria then downloaded this data and matched it with the Habitat Homes data by using the V-Lookup feature on Google Sheets. Because the data was already coded into categories from “very low” to “very high” we did not have to come up with any new criteria ourselves. Victoria then created a pivot table to count how many homes were in each category. She used a formula in Google Sheets to calculate the percentages, and then used the percentage data to create the chart.

Concluding Thoughts

We recognize that Habitat builds and refurbishes homes wherever the abandoned property is available, and that abandoned property is more likely to be located in areas with lower average incomes and less opportunity. Even though the majority of homes built by Habitat for Humanity in Hartford county are located in low-income and low-opportunity neighborhoods could be seen as a potentially negative phenomenon, it could also be seen as Habitat providing necessary resources to North-Central Connecticut’s most in-need areas. Owning a home, as opposed to short-term renting, provides significant social and economic benefits. For example:

-US homeowners have an average net worth that is 400% higher than that of renters that share similar demographics and earnings (source)

-Children of homeowners are 25% more likely to graduate high school and 116% more likely to graduate college (source)

The work being done by Habitat can change the trajectory of the lives of people they support by assisting Hartford residents in accumulating wealth through homeownership. Those in low-income and low-opportunity neighborhoods will benefit the most from the work done by Habitat for Humanity in Hartford County.


“Social Explorer- ACS 2019.” Social Explorer, 2005-2021,

“Our Mission Statement.” Hartford Area Habitat For Humanity,

“Opportunity Map.” Open Communities Alliance,