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Vermont has a housing crisis. 

Insufficient quantity and inadequate quality of housing stock; skyrocketing real estate prices; high rental prices driven higher in some markets by units being sold and flipped or turned into short-term rentals; increasing land, building materials, and labor costs that drive up development prices; permitting hurdles that both slow the construction process and drive up costs; and, incidentally, ever-increasing property taxes.

We have all heard stories, we have the data, the need is well documented.  What role can local government play in facilitating housing development and redevelopment so all Vermonters, whether they have been here five minutes or five generations, can live, work, play, learn, and build community in the places they love?

Great question. It will look different in each community. Many are looking to change their outdated zoning regulations that actually present obstacles and barriers to new housing creation (of any kind).  Others will explore the feasibility of using vacant and available town-owned land with an eye towards creating compact neighborhoods.  Still others will use their local ARPA funds to seed creative ideas to help solve the housing dilemma, like land banking, programs to incentivize residents to develop accessory dwelling units, creating a housing trust fund, etc.  While others will do the hard work of developing municipal water and wastewater systems, which are foundational to support not only the development of affordable housing but also all types of small businesses, even just a small village café in your community.  

FAQs

WHAT FEDERAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE TO MY MUNICIPALITY FOR HOUSING PROJECTS?

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) contained the most new funding for housing through the State of Vermont.  These funds were allocated to State agencies and other statewide entities to administer and deploy quickly.  

Existing Funding Sources for Housing in Vermont - Development:  Almost all state and federal funding for affordable housing development in Vermont is awarded to a network of non-profit affordable housing organizations.  These organizations most often are direct applicants for the funding but sometimes partner with a municipality to be a project's the fiscal sponsor. A Vermont Directory of Housing Organizations can be found with the Directory of Organizations - State of Vermont. Below is a breakdown of federal, state and "other" housing funds that flow through to Vermont:

Federal funds:

  • HOME Program (VHCB)
  • HUD Lead Paint Program/Healthy Homes (VHCB)
  • National Housing Trust Fund (VHCB)
  • Community Development Block Grants - CDBG (DHCD/VCDP)

State funds:

  • State Appropriation of Property Transfer Tax and Capital Bill Funds (VHCB)
  • Housing Relief Funds (General Fund)
  • State Housing Tax Credits

Other Housing Funds:

  • Private equity generated by Low Income Housing Tax Credits 9% ("Ceiling Credits")
  • Private equity generated by Low Income Housing Tax Credits 4% ("Bond Credits")
  • Private equity generated by State  Housing Tax Credits

What is a top barrier to developing affordable housing in towns?

Lack of existing infrastructure, like municipal water and sewer.  When a builder must bear the expense to construct the basic infrastructure necessary to support the project, the cost of development becomes prohibitive.  

If your town has ever thought about doing a water or sewer project for your community, now is the time to act!  Thanks to ARPA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, you will never have more funding available to carry out these types of projects again.  

 

Where can we find data about our community's housing needs?

HousingData.org 

Use data to help focus in on the housing needs of your community.  Visit HousingData.org to search many types of data by state, county or community – populations & households, income & employment, homeowners, renters, housing stock, housing needs, housing programs. 

Use the power of data - facts, not anecdotes - to tell the story of the housing need in your community.

Can our Town Plan be amended to add stronger language to support housing?

Yes.  Municipal (town) plans in Vermont must include: a recommended program for addressing low- and moderate-income persons' housing needs as identified by the regional planning commission pursuant to subdivision 4348(a)(9). Your Planning Commission must also update the plan at least once every eight years but the commission can also amend the plan at any time to address community concerns, including any language brought forward by housing advocates.

The municipal plan provides a comprehensive policy basis for changes to municipal land use regulations including zoning, and can offer a framework for other municipal actions to help address housing needs, such as conducting studies, acquiring land, and investing in infrastructure improvements. 

Can forming a Housing Committee help spur housing creation?

YES!  Housing committees can play an important role in community-based approaches to local housing needs. These groups, whether they are formal municipal committees, informal citizen discussion groups, or anything in between, can document existing housing stock, assess housing gaps, and influence local policy. Housing committees can benefit communities of any size, as evidenced by the many committees working around the state -- and their many successes, ranging from local zoning changes to the creation of Housing Trust Funds

Is there a list of Vermont towns that have Housing Committees that we can look to as models?

Yes.  Housing Data.org has a listing of the Existing Housing Committees in Vermont.

Is there a report that describes the state and federal funds that Vermont gets for housing?

Yes.  The Housing Budget and Investment Report is an annual report created by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development and presented to the Vermont Legislature. The report describes the combined State and federal funds awarded or appropriated to Vermont agencies for housing, including housing development, assistance, and subsidies, as required by 24 V.S.A. § 4498

Links to the most current report as well as prior years can be found HERE.

Does the State of Vermont do a statewide Housing Needs Assessment on a regular basis?

Yes.  Both the 2020-2025 and 2015-2020 statewide Housing Needs Assessments can be found HERE.  

Are there State programs that offer incentives and permitting benefits that support housing development?

Yes.  The Department of Housing and Community Development manages the state designation programs – DowntownsVillage CentersNew Town CentersGrowth Centers and Neighborhood Development Areas. These programs work together to provide incentives, align policies and give communities the technical assistance needed to encourage new development and redevelopment in our compact, designated areas. The program's incentives are for both the public and private sector within the designated area, including tax credits for historic building rehabilitations and code improvements, permitting benefits for new housing, funding for transportation-related public improvements and priority consideration for other state grant programs.

We would like to know more about the organizations that develop, own and operate affordable housing in our municipality. Is there a directory?

Yes.  A directory Vermont's Housing Organizations can be found within the Directory of Organizations - State of Vermont.

What is "land banking"?

Land banks are public authorities (local government) or non-profit organizations created to acquire, hold, manage, and sometimes redevelop property in order to return these properties to productive use to meet community goals, such as increasing affordable housing or stabilizing property values. When a town acquires and holds land (land banking) it can control how the property is developed and by whom vs. leaving it to the market and run the risk of undesired outcomes.  

Need one-on-one help? 

Grab 15 minutes with us for an appointment!  Our "Consults on Call" office hours are Wednesdays, 1:00-2:00 pm and 7:00-8:00 pm.  Simply click the blue "Book An Appointment" button, select the date and time that works best for you and complete the details.  If you think you need more than 15 minutes, please email FFA@vlct.org to schedule a longer time slot.