Housing bill wins early approval in Vt House

03/18/08 4:50PM By Bob Kinzel

(Host) After several hours of debate, the Vermont House gave its preliminary approval late Tuesday afternoon to legislation that backers say will create additional affordable housing units throughout the state.

The vote in the House was 78 to 60. The legislation relaxes Act 250 review for housing projects that are located near designated downtown areas, as long as 20% of the units are classified as affordable housing. The bill sets the affordability level at $220,000 dollars.

The bill also tightens development review of projects that would contribute to sprawl in the more rural areas of Vermont.

Hardwick Representative Lucy Leriche supported the bill because she thinks it will be effective in creating more affordable housing:

(Leriche) "This bill is fantastic...because this bill is a middle class bill what we have in Vermont is a crisis that employers are talking about in terms of not being able to retain and recruit qualified employees in their businesses and we're losing out on economic development opportunities because we don't have mid priced or affordable housing for them."

(Host) But opponents, like Georgia Representative Carolyn Branagan argued that the bill would do very little to create more affordable housing, because it applies to very few areas of the state.

And Branagan says there are better ways to create affordable housing:

(Branagan) "I would like to suggest that lowering tax burden, relaxing permit requirements and encouraging good high paying jobs to locate here in this state would do more to improve the housing stock than this bill will and the improvements would come from an improving economic environment not from government subsidy."

(Host) The measure is scheduled to come up for final approval in the House on Wednesday.

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