A new report finds Chittenden County is falling short on its housing goals, as found by local advocates. They say there’s not enough housing being built to meet a yearly goal, and soaring rent prices are making a bad situation, worse.
The ‘Building Homes Together Campaign’ is led by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, and Evernorth. The group’s most recent report just concluded and pointed to shortfalls in the housing market.
The two-year-old campaign aims to create 1,000 new homes and 250 permanently affordable units every year. The report found only 75% of the housing production goal has been met, and “slightly more than half” of the affordable units have been built.
CHT CEO Michael Monte says people are moving to Chittenden County faster than homes are going up, and advocates say the housing crisis is getting worse.
“We unfortunately have fallen short of the goal, we need to do more, and we need to do it faster,” Monte says.
He notes just 594 new homes were built in 2022, 110 of which were affordable. Monte explains a “healthy” housing vacancy rate would be around 5%; he says Chittenden County is currently hitting just 1%.
Officials say many factors play a part in affordability and the rental market. Developer Evernorth says one of the biggest problems is rent prices.
“Affordable rent is considered 30% of a person’s income, which means you have 70% of the rest of your income to pay for the rest of your things and you can save some money,” says Evernorth President Nancy Owens. “But right now, more than 50% of the renters in Chittenden County are paying more than 30% of their income in rent.”
Owens says creating affordable prices at the state and municipal level will help control the cost.
Officials looked to Williston’s ‘Zephyr Place’ on Monday, a motel-turned affordable housing project getting 38 households out of homelessness and offering other families and individuals affordable rates.
The Williston Town Manager says zoning changes now allow buildings to be closer to the road and to increase density to meet the housing needs.
“By the year 2030, we project about 72% of new dwelling units in Williston will be here in the growth center,” says Town Manager Erik Wells. He describes the ‘growth center’ as the Taft Corners area.
The town also created a housing committee to advise on policies and administer a housing trust fund.
Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission Charlie Baker says a handful of municipalities are following suit with committees, trust funds, and updated zoning to promote more affordable housing coming online.
“Let’s focus on the policy work now while the building is a little tougher and more expensive because of interest rates and the cost of construction,” says Baker.
The head of CHT says a handful of funding avenues have gone into these new housing projects, including the HOME Act signed this past year to help boost the housing supply.
Monte notes, even though the campaign’s goals were not entirely met, new housing coming online still contributes to the goals.