BURLINGTON, Vt. – A five-year outreach, education and advocacy campaign for housing in Chittenden County concluded on Monday, falling short of affordable housing goals while meeting its overall housing target.

The Building Homes Together Campaign pushed for 3,500 new homes between 2016 and 2020, with 700 of them being permanently affordable for low-income households. In the end, 3,659 new homes were built, but only 536 are permanently affordable.

The campaign was led by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, and Evernorth.

“Our work is incomplete,” said Michael Monte, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “Without adequate and affordable housing supply and services, our communities cannot thrive, our businesses cannot find workers, our vulnerable citizens will not be healthy and stable.”

Data shows the issue has worsened in recent years, particularly when it comes to rental vacancy. In 2016, the Chittenden County vacancy rate was 3.3 percent. Last year, it was 0.9 percent.

Monte attributed it to several factors, including the pandemic. More specifically, he said there were impacts on the supply chain, labor, and the amount of people seeking to move to Vermont.

“When you look at the pandemic results, the one thing Vermont does is stand out as being a safer place so there’s a large number of folks simply wanting to move here,” Monte said. “No matter what you did at that point, it created conditions where the vacancy rate was so low.”

“Communities across the county are struggling to maintain enough production to satisfy the demand for housing,” said Charlie Baker, executive director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. “Even with local housing committees advocating and developers wanting to build, we have had a hard time keeping up. It’ll take a sustained increase in housing production to start to fix the market.”