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    Housing Solutions Lab
    Monday, March 20, 2023

    Norwich family faces housing hurdles

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    Norwich — About 14 miles north of New London along the Thames River, Esther and Alexander Viver have resided for four years in a tight one-bedroom apartment on Franklin Street in Norwich.

    It’s all they can afford right now, though they’re striving for better.

    The Vivers met as kids and started dating when they were teenagers at New London’s Thames River Apartments.

    Esther Viver grew up visiting her sisters who lived at the high-rise apartments until she moved in with one of them before turning 15.

    The federally-subsidized Thames River Apartments closed in 2018 as the result of a class action lawsuit focused on poor living conditions. The loss of 124 affordable housing units added to a growing deficit in New London County, where, according to a 2021 study by the Urban Institute, there is a shortage of nearly 4,000 affordable housing units.

    At the Viver home, the bedroom door is immediately to the left of the front door, and the living room barely fits a three-seat couch and TV stand. The bathroom and kitchen are squeezed into the back corner of the space.

    The space has become significantly smaller with the arrival of the married couple’s first child earlier this year.

    Since she was 20, Viver has been diagnosed with endometriosis and experiences debilitating pain. Before getting pregnant last summer, Viver was under the impression that she would never be able to have kids.

    “He’s my little miracle,” Viver said about her son.

    In 2006, Esther was 18 and moved out of the apartments when she and her now-husband Alexander got their first apartment on Truman Street in New London.

    She said they were making good money. Her husband worked in landscaping and she worked with CT Care 4 Kids, a child-care provider for low- to moderate-income families, and McDonalds.

    They left the state for a few years and then came back to live in Norwich in 2015.

    Viver was working as a patient care assistant but stopped under doctor’s orders due to her endometriosis. Since then, the couple manages solely on the husband’s seasonal occupation as a landscaper, and it’s been a challenge. During the season, he works 40 to 56 hours a week and earns around $3,000 a month, and they save up for the winter months, when he’s laid off.

    “I get anxious and think, ʽHow are we going to pay this?ʻ ” Viver said.

    Their expenses include heat, electric, internet and cell phones. Viver said electric goes up to $400 or $500 in the winter, costing them up to $1,000 extra.

    She relies on “couponing” to stock up on hygiene items and other essentials, but finds it difficult with little storage space.

    The Vivers experience plumbing issues at their apartment. Esther Viver showed a video of water leaking from around the bathroom light fixture above the bathtub.

    There is mold along the kitchen ceiling to which she is allergic, but she said their landlord is responsive when they have an issue, and flexible when they are behind on their rent.

    They have considered looking at other apartments, but Viver said they are too expensive, with the average two-bedroom apartment in the area priced at around $1,300 a month, excluding utilities. They have tried applying to subsidized housing, but the waiting lists are long.

    Viver plans to return to work so she can work on her goal to own a home. The biggest hurdle, she said, is coming up with enough savings for a deposit. She has been doing research on programs that might help.

    For now, they’ll remain put until their financial situation changes.


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