Coalition Urges Response to Housing Shortage

03/12/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel



(Host) Vermont Housing officials say a growing shortage of affordable housing throughout the state will seriously undermine economic development efforts if the shortage is not reduced in the next few years.

VPRs' Bob Kinzel reports.


(Kinzel) A newly released report offers some sobering statistics about the availability of affordable housing in Vermont:

¿ In the last 15 years, construction of new houses in the state has dropped dramatically while the state's population has continued to grow
¿ The median price of a single-family home in Vermont increased roughly 30% in the last five years, while rents for a two-bedroom apartment have gone up 20% during this same time period
¿ And approximately two-thirds of all Vermonters do not earn enough money to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

The Vermont Housing Awareness Campaign, a coalition of public and private groups, is urging local officials to adopt zoning regulations that will encourage the development of more affordable housing units.

Currently it's estimated that the state faces a housing shortage of roughly 12,000 units. Campaign Spokeswoman Roberta Harold says it is critical to address this shortage before it severely hurts economic development efforts:

(Harold) "Because we're already hearing employers say that they're having a hard time getting the talented people they want, because the folks they are trying to hire don't have a place to live, and can't readily find one. So I think we'll see that it limits our economic growth. I think we'll also see an increase in homelessness. Already over the last decade or so, the average stay in a homeless shelter in Vermont has gone from 13 nights to 23 nights because it takes that much longer for people to be able to find some place to live."

(Kinzel) Kathy Beyer, who is deputy commissioner of Housing and Community Affairs, thinks local officials hold the key to creating more affordable housing:

(Beyer) "I think it is one of the most important questions facing Vermont communities is to ask themselves where they see new housing units going in the next five years. If we want to maintain the diversity of our communities where you really can have a school teacher or a daycare worker live in the same community where they work, we need to start seeing Vermont communities actually advocating for where the housing will be."

(Kinzel) The Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund is also working with a number of communities to seek innovative solutions to help reduce the state's affordable housing shortage.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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