11-person 'family' causing housing dispute in Hartford - WFSB 3 Connecticut

11-person 'family' causing housing dispute in Hartford

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This home on Scarborough Street in Hartford is in the center of how you define a family. (CBS News) This home on Scarborough Street in Hartford is in the center of how you define a family. (CBS News)
The 11 people living at Scarborough Street in Hartford talk with CBS News The 11 people living at Scarborough Street in Hartford talk with CBS News

The question of how you define a family is at the center of a dispute in Hartford.

Nearly a dozen people, some of whom are not related, live together comfortably in a single-family home. But, city officials are forcing them to split up.

Hartford's historic west end neighborhood boasts stately mansions and high profile homeowners including the mayor and Connecticut's governor. Then are the people living at a home at 68 Scarborough St.

Like others, they bought their home and live here in apparent domestic harmony and all 12 consider themselves a family.

Except, this group of 11 actually includes three couples, with three children, and two single people. They're all longtime friends, who decided years ago, they wanted to live together.

Kevin Lamkins is an English teacher.

“I think there's a real extension of our values as people in this,” Lamkins said. “The values I'm speaking of are sustainability, cooperation, living more, living well but within our means. Being connected to other people and not being in a silo so to speak.”

This group of friends includes three teachers, a grants manager, and a mental health therapist.

Julia Rosenblatt clarified a few details. She said they are “not a cult. There's no religion. There's no intermingling.”

“We're very much living like most people are. You know, we are just doing it together,” Rosenblatt said.

They purchased the nine-bedroom home and moved in last August. They have a legal partnership agreement and a shared bank account to pay expenses. The group has spent $30,000 so far to repair the home built in 1921.

“The projects are ongoing,” the group said.

They all say it works well, but some neighbors told CBS News apparently don't agree.

Someone complained to the city, which determined in October that the living arrangement violates the zoning code for the neighborhood, which specifies that although the houses may be massive, no more than two unrelated people can live in them.

It came as a surprise to the group.

“We did some research and the reason why we thought we were OK,” Rosenblatt said. “I because there's a dense, specific to this area, a density clause. Only a certain amount of people per acre. And we more than fit that.”

Last month, they appealed and lost. They now have to decide whether to fight the decision in court or break up the group, and sell.

“It's been terrifying. It's been really stressful, both on a financial level, but also, just on an emotional level,” Hannah Simms, who is a freelance theater teacher, said. “We're just getting into living together and functioning as a family with all eleven of us. And it's already become pretty precious I think to all of us.

City officials would not comment, citing possible litigation. Land use attorney Diane Whitney said zoning codes were designed to protect neighborhoods.

“Historically, it was to rule out things like boarding houses or rooming houses,” Whitney said. “It would be wise of Hartford to look at their definition of family, how does it work, is it doing what you want it to do.”

This group said, in their case, definitely not.

“It's preposterous,” homeowner Joshua Blanchfield said. “Whomever is in your home, who you love, is who your family is. And the notion that the city is going to discount that is unacceptable to us.”

Some cities and towns have found a way to address these kinds of living arrangements, they call it a “functional family” and that definition actually describes this group pretty well: they must have an ownership interest, share housekeeping duties, which usually means is there is only one kitchen, and other specifications so that these homes don't end up as boarding houses.

As for the neighbors who allegedly made the initial complaint, none of the ones that CBS News reached out to were willing to comment on camera.

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