Building Vermont’s Affordable Housing Future
When most folks think of the housing affordability crisis, $3,000 studios in San Francisco and New York City tend to come to mind. But in Chittenden County, where over 80% of businesses identify a lack of housing as an obstacle to job growth in their community, the crisis is equally as tangible.
You don’t have to look far to understand why: when demand significantly outpaces supply, the cost of housing tends to increase and can price workers out of the communities in which they are employed. And as the labor market dries up, so does business.
That’s just one reason why in 2016, the Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission joined together to launch the Building Homes Together campaign. This coordinated effort was conceived with the primary goal of building 3,500 homes by 2021 for people of all incomes, including 700 affordable homes. That translates into 700 new homes every year — a 64% increase from the county’s average.
Thanks to smart planning, these homes are being built in areas that make sense for the community. A key component of the campaign is to ensure that at least 80% of new development occurs in planned growth areas — oftentimes in the downtown metros of Chittenden County. With new construction focused downtown, there’s less pressure for families to experience long commutes to school or work. That also means fewer cars on the road, cleaner air and a stronger sense of community for Chittenden County’s new neighbors.
And while the Building Homes Together campaign has demonstrated great progress, there’s still more that can be done to ensure Chittenden County stays affordable. Safe to say, fixing the region’s housing affordability problem will require smart policy changes that connect the dots between housing access and growth.
That means upzoning in areas that make sense, providing a variety of housing for a variety of incomes and reforming outdated regulations that hold back development. It also means abandoning policies that don’t work, and focusing resources where they can be used best.
While the housing affordability crisis is being felt across the country, local solutions continue to deliver real change in communities that need them most. Chittenden County’s Building Homes Together campaign is a model for success that other communities throughout the state will no doubt look to as they tackle their own affordability challenges.