Affordable housing

During this off-session time, I am giving you short summaries of the legislation that we passed this biennium. Some of these pieces may have been in the end of session report that I put in several locations in town right after the session adjourned. I hope they are informative. The legislature worked hard to encourage the building of affordable housing for working Vermonters and ensure that existing housing will be safe for our families and children. We facilitated the creation of more housing for working Vermonters and passed the first major change under Act 250 related to housing. Are as that are state designated downtowns, village centers, new town centers, and growth centers can apply to become Vermont Neighborhoods. Housing developed within Vermont Neighborhoods is subject to local zoning decisions and exempt from Act 250 review. This new program is designed to protect the rural character of our state and ensure traditional settlement patterns, continuing the smart growth principles that have guided our policy over the last few years. Further study of these principles will be undergone for rural areas. Dense development of four or more units per acre in existing centers will be promoted. Opening the way for much more affordable financing for almost ten percent of Vermonts housing stock; we allowed permanently located mobile homes to be considered real property. We clarified requirements around the sale and closure of mobile home parks, providing for a fair and timely process for owners and tenants. Increased housing tax credits and reductions in the property transfer tax are included for some low and moderate income homebuyers. At least twenty percent of the homes built under the Vermont Neighborhoods program must be moderately priced. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) has been our states primary vehicle for funding permanently affordable housing for over 20 years. Despite the governors plan to cut its funding, the Legislature continued funding for VHCB in the FY09 budget. We took steps to preserve existing housing, protect our children from the dangers of lead exposure in rental housing, and encourage lead screening for all one and two-year olds. At the time of sale, homes will have to have smoke detectors that quickly detect deadly, smoldering fires. We are moving Vermont toward a statewide rental housing inspection system by 2011. Together all of this work will help maintain the states commitment to public investment in permanently affordable housing. I welcome meeting with you. Please contact me if you have questions, concerns, or ideas for good legislation. I can be reached at 985-8515 or jglenes@aol.com. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer. Joan Lenes is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-2 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel.

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