Selectboard discusses affordable housing

Affordable housing was discussed with representatives from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, Vermont Housing Finance Authority and the Planning Commission at the last Shelburne Selectboard meeting. It was an outgrowth of an earlier inquiry by board member Toni Supple about the town’s affordable housing policies and call for a moratorium on large-scale affordable housing developments within the town.

The state of housing affordability within the county is not good. That is the conclusion of the CCRPC’s ECOS report. In the report, 83 percent of employers said that affordability of housing is an obstacle to economic development. More employees (9,000) are living outside the county and commuting in to their jobs.

CCRPC says that the county is in unhealthy territory for vacancies. There simply is not enough affordable housing to meet the need. That affects those across the spectrum, including professionals early in their careers.

In a survey of Burlington Young Professionals (BYP) members, only 52 percent were satisfied with their current housing situation. Most want to be able to have a single-family detached home with a yard. Of those surveyed, 93 percent said that they wanted to purchase a home but were unable to afford it.

A question that had been raised by Selectboard members was that of property taxes and the potential for affordable housing to be a drain on community resources. Moira Collins of Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) said that was not the case. She said that Champlain Housing Trust pays $90,000 on the Harrington Village and Wright House property. That amount is an increase of more than $70,000 from what was being collected on that parcel prior to the housing being built.

Collins also noted that a moratorium that targeted affordable housing, as suggested by Supple at a previous meeting, would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Supple clarified that she had meant only large-scale affordable housing developments – not affordable housing in general.

No decisions were made at Tuesday’s meeting. However, the issue of affordable housing will be one that continues to be a matter of both concern and conversation.

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