Affordable housing in Vermont

Earlier this summer I talked about what the legislature worked on to encourage the building of affordable housing for working Vermonters and ensure that existing housing will be safe for our families and children. I believe it ties directly to what is being discussed in Shelburne. The legislature facilitated the creation of more housing for working Vermonters and passed the first major change under Act 250 related to housing. Areas 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 20 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. Right here in Shelburne, we have an opportunity to have so much of what this law is striving to accomplish become a reality. Currently there is a project being proposed that would allow development in our village center and still maintain the special quality of Shelburne. We could help our neighbors in Shelburne Woods retain their homes. These very issues are being discussed at our Select Board meetings. Details need to be worked on but the spirit of this project is a good one. Come and listen to what is being proposed and the possibilities for us as a community. It is so important that we are informed. Please contact me if you would like to have conversations about this or any other issues. I can be reached at 985-8515 or jglenes@aol.com. 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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