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Common ground is solid ground for new housing intitiative

Vermonts shortage of moderately priced housing is a real problem for thousands of Vermont households. In fact, observers currently estimate a shortfall of 22,000 apartment units and 12,000 single-family homes. Building additional new moderately-priced homes will not only begin to satisfy our housing needs, but it will also help bring prices into a range that more working Vermonters can afford. Right now, legislative leaders and advocates are working hard to bring divergent interests into alignment on the issue of new homebuilding. They are trying to balance our need for additional housing with environmental and growth-planning concerns. It is critically important to all Vermonters that we find common ground and pass a law that breaks the housing logjam that forms when Vermonters whose homes dont match their present needs are forced to stay because there's nowhere else to go. Nationally, the sub-prime lending problem has been a major factor in the current economic slowdown and drop in housing starts. In Vermont, housing starts have a real impact on the economic well being of our state and of all Vermonters. Upwards of 8,000 Vermonters earn their living in our homebuilding sector, accounting for nearly 3% of all jobs in our state. If you add up all of the economic activity connected to homebuilding the builder, plus the loan officer at the bank, the seller and transporter of materials, the engineer, law clerk and architect and so on homebuilding accounts for nearly 20% of our annual state economic activity. Actual construction jobs are responsible for more than 8% of our state's annual economic output. So you might say that when housing get the sniffles, Vermont comes down with a cold. Whats more, employers all over our state tell us that one of the greatest obstacles to expansion in Vermont is the lack of housing options for employees and prospective employees. Increased opportunity to rent or buy a moderately priced home will make any working Vermonter's paycheck go farther. Moreover, 60% of Vermont's housing stock was built before World War II. Most of those homes lack the energy efficiency features of newer housing, which results not only in higher heating and utility costs but also in a greater environmental impact. To frame the solution in simple terms, making more land available for new homebuilding, providing incentives for new housing starts, and carefully easing some of our permitting and regulatory requirements will help bring new home costs down. In the Vermont State House, we must have compromise if we are to make progress. Vermont needs housing. We need strong villages, downtowns and rural communities that reflect local values. And Vermont needs people young people and families who can only afford moderately priced homes. You can help. Call your legislators and let them know that housing is important to you, and that you support compromise to expand housing opportunities for everyone in our state. Brian Dubie is Vermont's Lieutenant Governor. E-mail his office at martha.hanson@state.vt.us, or visit www.ltgov.state.vt.us

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