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Woog's World / The numbers game and Westport stereotypes

Westport's municipal website has the town's number. Actually, lots of them.

Drilling deep down into www.westportct.gov -- clicking on the "About the Town" tab, then "Westport Demographics" -- yields all kinds of information.

The most recent involves housing data, thanks to something called the Partnership for Strong Communities. As with many statistics, some are surprising. Others confirm what I thought I already knew.

Westport's 26,249 residents live in 9,432 households -- an average of 2.76 people per household. The number seems kind of low.

Then again, my household consists of 1.0 people. So does my next-door neighbor in our condo complex, and most of the others here. I guess it takes a number of 6-bedroom McMansions to help us reach that Westport average.

A whopping 89 percent of residents live in "families" -- yet "21 percent of householders live alone." That's 110 percent.

I'm not sure of the difference between "families" and "householders living alone," but I'm sure there is one.

At any rate, Westport's average family size is 3.22 people. So it seems there is a difference between a "household" and a "family," though that difference is unclear on the website.

The median age of town residents is 44.3. That's nearly five years older than the statewide median age of 39.8. Whether we are five years wiser is debatable.

As expected, Westport is far wealthier than the rest of the county and state.

Our median income in 2007-11 was $155,792. That's nearly double Fairfield County's median income of $82,558, which itself was substantially more than the statewide median ($69,243).

Over 3,500 households had incomes of $200,000 or more. Of those, approximately 1,200 were headed by someone between the ages of 25 and 44.

That wealth translates into high housing prices, of course. Even considering the hit our homes took in the Great Recession, our median home value -- over $1 million -- rose 62 percent from 2000 to 2011. The median home value in Fairfield County was $466,700; in all of Connecticut, it was $293,100.

In Westport, 92 percent of homes are single-family; 8 percent are multi-family. That's a far cry from the state average: 66 percent single-family housing. Read Full Article 

In Westport, owners occupy 90 percent of single-family housing. Renters occupy 64 percent of multi-family homes.

Twenty-one percent of our town's housing stock was built before 1939. Fifty-five percent was constructed between 1940 and 1979, while the remaining 24 percent came after 1979.

Those statistics do not reveal what percentage of new construction replaced teardowns that themselves were built after 1979.

Over 79 percent of Westport homes have three or more bedrooms; only 17 percent have two, while 4 percent are one-bedrooms or studios.

There are no figures on the number with six or more, which seems to be the newest trend. Based on the size of households noted previously, it's unclear who is sleeping in all those bedrooms.

According to American Community Survey data from 2007-11, Westport had 1,363 rental units. Nearly three-quarters -- 73 percent -- had a gross rent over $1,000 per month, with the median gross rent was $1,637.

The median income of renters was $68,750, meaning 29 percent of their earnings goes to rent.

Seven percent of renters, meanwhile, had a gross rent under $750 per month. Perhaps those low rents are included in a list of "affordable units," as by the Connecticut Department of Housing in 2012. They counted 245 governmentally assisted units here, along with a few others receiving other assistance.

According to United Way, in 2012, the top five housing-related requests for service in Westport related to homeless shelters (66 calls), housing search and information (17), rent payment assistance (7), domestic violence shelters (6) and rental deposit assistance (5).

Foreclosure deed filings and pending lawsuits peaked at 109 last year.

That's a small percentage of what's going on elsewhere. In 2012, only eight communities -- Bridgeport, Bristol, Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, Norwich and Waterbury -- accounted for 40 percent of all Connecticut foreclosures.

So what does this hodgepodge of statistics mean? They sprawl across the Westport website, with even less connection than I've tried to make here.

They show that we have a lot more money, and more expensive homes, than the rest of the state and even the county -- but we knew that.

They also show us with more small homes, and more renters, than we may have thought.

The monolith that we imagine to be "Westport" -- filled only with McMansions, and suburban-type households -- is no more true than any other stereotype.

It's something I often forget, but will try to remind myself of as I drive around town from now on.

I'll look more closely at each home, imagining the varied "households" living in every one.

Starting, of course, with my very own condo.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.

Dan Woog

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