New Vermont Initiative to Promote Housing Choices

27 June 2019

New Vermont Initiative to Promote Housing Choices

‘Great Neighborhoods’ Kicks Off in July, Providing Tools and Resources to Cities and Towns

MONTPELIER, VT — The Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development has announced Zoning for Great Neighborhoods, a project aimed at helping Vermont cities and towns address regulatory barriers to providing housing choices for more Vermonters. The project will provide guidance and model regulations to build a better pipeline for the development of all types of housing, particularly multi-family housing, and walkable communities.

Decent, affordable, and reasonably located homes, more than anything, determine the well-being of every Vermonter. Location and transportation connection are especially important: Where we live can ease or complicate our access to work, schools, recreation, and services.  Many Vermont households – including the majority with moderate incomes – must make difficult trade-offs to find a home that is both conveniently located and within their means. 

The cost and availability of housing also matter for the state’s economy, affecting the ability of businesses to hire and retain qualified workers, in turn influencing decisions about whether to locate, expand, or remain in Vermont.

Jennifer Hollar, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Director of Policy and Special Projects said, “Despite the hundreds of new homes made possible by the recent housing revenue bond, too many Vermonters continue to struggle to find housing that is affordable and meets their needs. In addition to funding new homes, VHCB is committed to exploring policy levers that can be pulled to allow more housing in good locations for the benefit of all.  We’re pleased to support this effort to provide municipalities with tools for updating zoning to increase housing options and affordability that residents want and need.” 

“Vermont’s housing needs are quickly changing, with striking implications for the housing market,” said Helen Hossley CEO of the Vermont Association of Realtors. “Many municipalities have outdated zoning and land use regulations that not only discourage the type of residential development needed today but also don’t help create walkable communities when development occurs.” 

AARP-VT’s Kelly Stoddard Poor says that the power of municipalities to determine when, where, and what type of housing is built in Vermont towns and cities is a critical component to a community’s future choices  “Once a certain type of housing, especially single‑family homes, are built, it becomes extremely difficult to add new types of housing to those existing neighborhoods,” she says.

The project will draw on national and regional expertise from the nonprofit CNU and Vermont’s Regional Planning Commissions. Their perspective is important to introducing—and often reintroducing—multi-family and combined housing types that were once traditional forms throughout Vermont, such as homesharing or accessory dwelling units.

“Residents and communities are sometimes uneasy about these options,” says Catherine Dimitruk, who heads the Northwest Regional Planning Commission. “People get concerned the change could negatively affect the character of their community, the value of their property and their quality of life. Showing examples of where it has worked is really valuable.” 

Mallory Baches, Program Manager for CNU, says, “The main goal of this project is to meet communities where they are: assess local capacity, provide strategic support, and offer practical solutions that enable great neighborhoods.” 

A stakeholder kick-off meeting is scheduled in July.  Next steps will involve identifying the types of regulatory barriers that prevent homes from being built, analyzing typical local regulations, and proposing alternatives that can support the types of homes needed.  Tools for municipalities to use will be completed in the Spring of 2020.

Led by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project is underwritten with generous support from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, AARP-VT, and the Vermont, Green Mountain and National Association Realtors.

For more information, please visit https://accd.vermont.gov/content/zoning-for-great-neighborhoods

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About the Department of Housing and Community Development
The Department of Housing and Community Development works to support vibrant and resilient communities, promote safe and affordable housing for all, protect the state’s historic resources, and improve the quality of life for Vermonters.

About the Agency of Commerce and Community Development
The mission of ACCD is to help Vermonters improve their quality of life and build strong communities. ACCD accomplishes this mission by providing grants, technical assistance, and advocacy through three divisions:  The Department of Economic Development, the Department of Tourism and Marketing, and the Department of Housing and Community Development. For more information on ACCD please visit: accd.vermont.gov.

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