Chittenden County housing leaders, joined by Congressman Peter Welch, Vermont Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, announced today that one of two housing production goals was being met for the county, indicating mixed results for the second year in a row. The Building Homes Together campaign, supported by over 100 local and state leaders, stayed on pace to create 3,500 new homes over five years but is falling short of a target of 700 new permanently affordable homes by the end of 2020.
“Every Vermonter should have the peace of mind that comes with a safe and affordable home. The Building Homes Together campaign has brought us a few steps closer to that goal. Today, we celebrate its success and recommit to the work ahead of us,” Congressman Peter Welch told the assembled crowd.
“Over the first two years of this five year campaign we’ve seen an uptick in housing production with over 1,600 net new homes added to our housing stock,” explained Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, one of the three groups coordinating the campaign. “The homes are being absorbed by the market and it is clear to us that we must continue to build at this pace or greater to satisfy the housing needs of the region.”
Vacancy rates remain below what is viewed as a healthy market, with the latest report pegging vacancy at 1.7% in July, 2018. Market analysts usually look for a rate closer to 5%.
While the overall construction goals being met demonstrate a strong housing market, the inability to meet the affordable targets concerns many. “There’s a tremendous, pent up need for housing that is affordable to low-income individuals and families,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust, another leader in the campaign. “We need to increase the affordable production if we want communities that are inclusive to all.” There have been 191 permanently affordable homes created over the past two years – well shy of 140 per year needed to reach 700 in five years.
Representative Mitzi Johnson, Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, added, “Every Vermonter deserves the opportunity of a home they can afford. A stable home is critical for children to learn, for workers to hold down jobs, for people to succeed in addiction recovery, and to build strong, healthy communities. We’re making good progress through such efforts as the Housing for All bond passed by the Legislature last year. But we can’t rest – we have much more work ahead to ensure all Vermonters have access to safe, affordable housing.”
“The lack of housing supply remains our largest regional challenge. Robust housing growth in the cities and towns of Chittenden County strengthens our schools, makes us more equitable, and reduces our climate impact by allowing people to live closer to neighbors, services, and workplaces rather than farther out into Vermont's hills and pastures,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “If we are serious about making housing a human right, we must continue to work to break down the barriers to building new and affordable housing.”
The overall production numbers include all new apartments, condominiums, single family homes, and accessory dwellings that received their certificate of occupancy in 2016 or 2017. Homes that have been demolished – and there were nearly 100 in 2017 – were subtracted from the total. Not included in the count was the impact of student housing. Over this period, the University of Vermont demolished two dormitories (391 beds), but replaced them with a new dorm (695 beds) for a net gain of on campus housing.
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe reflected back over the last couple of years. “We set an ambitious new housing target when we got together for the kick off of this initiative. We’ve made good headway, and the Senate is committed to keeping up the momentum. As someone with a housing development background I know how many hurdles any housing project needs to get over. So the progress we’ve all made together is worth celebrating.”
Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont, the third organization leading the Building Homes Together campaign, expressed some hope for the future. “The impact of Vermont’s $37 million Housing for All revenue bond will soon start to be felt. New senior housing is wrapping up in South Burlington, and CHT and Housing Vermont are under construction with 136 new apartments that will be completed in 2019. But,” she cautioned, “It’s still not enough.”
The campaign called for increased investment through local trust funds at the community level and full funding of state sources like the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, offered support for zoning changes in communities that want to address the shortage of housing, and said that planning for a second housing bond – the original proposal by the groups included a $70 million version – should begin now as the benefits and needs are clear.The Building Homes Together campaign was initiated by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont in 2016. The campaign’s goal is to increase the production of housing, setting a target of 3,500 new homes created over next five years, with 700 of them permanently affordable. Over 100 local and state officials signed on to the campaign. More information can be found at http://www.ecosproject.com/building-homes-together/.
Governor Phil Scott joined municipal officials, nonprofit leaders, lawmakers and housing developers Wednesday to applaud progress toward meeting residential building targets in Chittenden County, while acknowledging that more needs to be done to increase the number of affordable apartments and for-sale homes available to working people.
The Building Homes Together (BHT) campaign, launched by the Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission in 2016, set a target of 3,500 new homes to be constructed over five years, with 20% of them being permanently affordable. The campaign goals are supported by over 100 community leaders and public officials.
In 2016, Chittenden County saw a net increase of 916 new homes including accessory dwellings, assisted living apartments, apartments and homes for sale. This is nearly twice the average annual production of homes during the past five years. Despite this increase, there were only 69 new affordable homes added in 2016, or 8% of the total.
“The construction of new homes is an important part of our efforts to increase availability of affordable housing statewide, and is great for our economy, employers and citizens. I am pleased to see progress made in Chittenden County, but we have more work to do here and across Vermont,” said Governor Phil Scott. “This data illustrates our continued need for more moderately priced homes to ensure Chittenden County is affordable for low and middle-income Vermonters. I believe the $35 million Housing for All bond I proposed, and the legislature passed, this year will help us make more progress in Chittenden County, and across the state.”
The BHT campaign uses certificate of occupancy data collected directly from municipalities as the basis for the reported numbers. Looking ahead, it appears there will be approximately 360 new rentals added to the market in 2017 with 52 of them affordable. There are no accurate data available to project the number of new homes for sale that will be occupied in 2017.
In 2018, the first affordable homes will be built using the innovative bond funding authorized by the Legislature this year. Nonprofit organizations described willingness to build over 300 affordable homes almost immediately.
“The data show us that, yes, there has been a building boom in Chittenden County this year,” said Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the CCRPC. “However, the July vacancy rate of 2.5% is still lower than we’d like to see for a healthy housing market. Rents also continue to rise at almost 4% a year.”
“There’s an imbalance in the market. We really need an influx of capital if we are truly going to make Chittenden County more affordable,” added Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont.
“We get more than ten applications for every available apartment,” said Brenda Torpy of the Champlain Housing Trust. “If we are going to house our workforce or eliminate homelessness and protect the most vulnerable, the time is now to invest.”
The BHT campaign held their announcement on Market Street in South Burlington, site of the long-planned City Center. Multiple buildings are planned by developer Snyder Homes over the next several years. The first to be built is Allard House, senior housing that will be owned and managed by Cathedral Square. Ground breaking is expected in the next two weeks.
For more information on Building Homes Together, or to sign on to the campaign, please visit: http://www.ecosproject.com/building-homes-together/ or contact Chris Donnelly: email@example.com or (802) 310-0623.
What other officials are saying about the progress and mission of the Building Homes Together campaign:
Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe
“It takes many strategies over many years to make progress on the big stuff like our chronic housing shortage. Several years ago, Ginny Lyons and I worked hard with the South Burlington City team to enable the creation of South Burlington's TIF district. We applaud them for making the vision a reality. Despite criticism from some partisan groups, the Legislature maintained funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board when it was under threat, steadily expanded the Downtown and Village Credit program, funded an innovative down payment assistance program at VHFA, and so much more. Without this foundation in place, the goal of 3,500 new homes would be a pipe dream. It’s important to recognize the critical role public investment plays in meeting community needs.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger
“The road to greater housing affordability and remaining an equitable, diverse community requires both increased housing opportunities for our most vulnerable and getting our land use policies right to encourage much greater production of new homes overall. Burlington is committed to this dual strategy and is grateful for its partnership with the Building Homes Together coalition pushing for the same solutions countywide. With the passage of last year’s Housing For All bond, major projects underway throughout the county, and growing awareness of the importance of increasing Chittenden County homes, this crucial effort has exciting momentum.”
After years of education, outreach and advocacy, we’ll soon see some significant movement towards alleviating the severe housing affordability challenges Vermonters face.
The Vermont Legislature just passed a budget that included a historic investment in affordable housing, enabling the issuance of up to $35 million in revenue bonds to support the creation of much needed housing for Vermonters. It is cause for celebration, and it is cause for hope that we can move closer to ensuring every Vermonter has a safe and decent place to call home.
Today is a very good day: the $35 million investment in affordable housing is the largest in Vermont’s history.
The housing bond, which was introduced by Governor Phil Scott and embraced by Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson – and business and municipal leaders – will also act as an economic stimulus for Vermont communities by leveraging as much as another $100 million in capital to build and rehab affordable housing in all corners of the State.
The bond will help pay for the development or rehab up to 650 homes for Vermonters struggling to afford to live in their communities. In fact, recent data demonstrated that Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation to live for people that rent. The annual Point in Time count of homelessness showed that after a couple of years of progress, there has been an 11% increase statewide, with some regions especially challenged. Not all the news is negative: collaborative efforts in Chittenden County have returned a 45% reduction in homelessness since 2014; a primary barrier to more progress is simply building more housing, especially important now that federal cuts to social safety net programs loom on the horizon.
The resources are dedicated to housing that is permanently affordable and ensure that different populations benefit: at least 25% of the housing must be affordable to households who earn half of the median income, and at least 25% must be affordable to those earning between 80% and 120% of median. These two income bands have been identified as the ones who most lack housing options across the state. The rest of the bond proceeds will serve people earning less than 120% of area median income.
Dozens of Chittenden County leaders in the fields of housing, business, local and state government, and social services announced this morning a new campaign to increase the production of housing and setting a target of 3,500 new homes created in the next five years.
The new coalition, called Building Homes Together, was formed by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont and released an initial list of nearly 100 community leaders supporting the effort. Several leaders shared words of support.
“Working together we will accomplish this goal,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. “For the sake of our communities, our workers and local economy, we will educate and advocate together for more housing.”
“The housing shortage in Chittenden County has been well noted with unhealthy vacancy rates and high rents,” added Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. “Employers can’t find workers, and workers themselves spend more time in commutes and with a higher percentage of their paychecks on housing costs.”
Twenty percent of the 3,500 goal are targeted to be developed by nonprofit housing organizations. The remainder by private developers.
“This step-up in production will not just provide new homes and infrastructure for communities, it’ll be a boost to the economy and contribute to the tax base. Building homes together is a big win for all of us in Chittenden County,” said Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont.
The campaign will provide up-to-date data to the community on the need for and benefits of new housing, build cross-sector and public support for housing development, increasing access to capital, and supporting municipalities.
Individuals, businesses or organizations that wish to sign on and participate in the campaign are encouraged to by sending an email to Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust.
Shared equity homeownership, often through a community land trust like CHT, is getting noticed. We've known (and demonstrated [PDF-4.5MB]) that the program works to create homeownership opportunity for people of limited means, and that it's a growing response across the country to help people reach their dreams of owning their home.
Now, more mainstream national media outlets are taking notice. The National Journal, which in collaboration with The Atlantic, developed a new series they called the Next Economy focused on innovations. They've featured CHT's shared equity program on both of their websites (you can find them here and here). Soon after, the story was picked up by CNN Money, too.
The headlines might be a little funny, but the message of the article is clear: shared equity homeownership works, and is worth a deeper look as a sustainable option for creating new opportunities for the next generation of homebuyers.
Every five years, the State of Vermont develops a "Consolidated Plan" to submit to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to guide use of approximately $10 million dollars in spending on housing, homelessness, and economic and community development. As part of this process, state officials are seeking public input to develop their plan. They especially would like input from residents of affordable housing or folks who have participated in our rehab loan program. There is a short, anonymous survey that can be filled out online.
Members of the public are also encouraged to attend public hearing at the St. Albans City Council Chambers from 4pm to 6pm on Thursday, December 18. For more information on the State's process and prior plans, visit the Department of Housing and Community Development's webpage.
When we think of affordable housing, we often think of the benefits that people living there receive: a secure, safe place to live that meets their budget and where they can set and achieve their goals. But there's a significant economic impact from which we all benefit -- jobs, sales and payroll taxes, local economic development and vibrant communities.
In Housing and the Economy: The Statewide Ripple Effect, we tell this story of how affordable housing development and preservation adds value to the bottom line, with real examples from communities across the state. It's the fifth and final in our series of papers describing the intersection of housing with other public policy priorities.
(photo credit: Sally McKay)