The combination of high demand and a short supply has gripped the entire region in a housing crisis. Last fall, the Montpelier City Council tapped a consulting firm to do to two things: examine the needs of people struggling with homelessness and develop an action plan to remedy those needs.

The consultants from Parker Advisors, LLC presented their findings to the council Wednesday night. They discovered housing-related support services in Montpelier are so thoroughly fragmented that at least some people can’t access them when they need them.

A Montpelier housing master plan was one of Parker Advisors’ major recommendations. However, Montpelier city officials appeared to have seen that suggestion coming.

“We actually started a housing master plan about a year ago,” City Manager Bill Fraser said. “I spoke with the planning director today; they’re very active. So, the new housing plan — this council should be getting it this summer.”

The second major recommendation is to create a centralized ‘housing hub’. Parker Advisors envision it offering not just emergency shelter, but spaces for outreach services like job support, food assistance or substance abuse counseling.

“All of those things live in different organizations in different places right now,” consultant Paul Capcara said. “You almost need a full-time navigator to help you figure out — how do you piece together all of these pieces?”

Implementation of a city-wide community education plan is Parker Advisors’ third recommendation. The firm believes reduction of the stigma surrounding housing insecurity should be one of the education plan’s goals.

“People who’ve experienced homelessness are no more likely to be dangerous or violent than anyone in the rest of the community and are often blamed for acts done by people who are not homeless,” consultant Dan Towle said.

With rental housing vacancy rates going down in Montpelier in recent years, the city’s median gross rent increased to $1,181 per month at the end of 2021. That was the most recent point in time cited in the report. Half of tenants paid more than that amount and half paid less.

The document shows that the median price of buying a home in Montpelier has also nearly doubled since 2016. It’s increased by more than $150,000 — approaching the $400,000 mark — and incomes aren’t keeping pace.

The consultants from Parker Advisors say Montpelier should continue to fund its two part-time staff positions for street outreach workers. They also recommend doing the same for the city’s so-called ‘motel fund’ to pay for emergency housing when other avenues fail.