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With housing costs the biggest financial stress for Vermonters, you can’t afford to miss the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference

Posted by Mia Watson on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 - 10:58am

Last week, Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), sat down with Vermont Public Radio’s (VPR) Howard Weiss-Tisman to discuss the results of the annual VPR-Vermont PBS poll. The poll revealed that housing costs are the primary source of financial stress for Vermonters and that respondents believed that lower housing costs would make Vermont significantly more affordable.

With housing rising to the top of the list of concerns for Vermonters, the best place to learn what you can do next is the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference on November 13 and 14 at the Hilton Burlington. Topics will include employer assisted housing, zoning opportunities to promote more development of housing affordable to underserved populations, and the connections between housing, health and education. Register this week  to discover how your community can make affordable housing a reality.  Online conference registration closes this Friday, November 2.

In the poll, 606 Vermont residents were asked which regular living expense created the most financial stress in their lives. 32% of participants selected “Housing costs (e.g. rent or mortgage)” as their greatest concern, by far the most common answer.

According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont has the fifth largest imbalance between average wages and average rents in the nation. The report estimates that for a Vermont renter to be able to afford a modest two bedroom apartment, he or she would need to earn $22.40 per hour, well above the average renter wage. Prices are high for homebuyers as well, with the average home price unaffordable for the average area resident in nearly half of Vermont towns, according to analysis from VHFA.

In the interview, Carpenter discussed a variety of strategies to make housing more affordable. One area that she noted needs more attention is housing quality, which will be covered in detail in a workshop at the conference on November 13 and 14. Vermont’s housing stock is among the oldest in the nation. Even in areas of the state where housing prices are lower, homeowners and landlords may not have the resources to maintain their homes to basic health and safety standards. Carpenter currently chairs the Rental Housing Advisory Board, which was created by the Legislature in 2018 to improve the state’s code enforcement system. Carpenter also called for renewed investment in existing subsidized housing across the state, which needs on-going support to keep apartments up to date.

Poll participants were also asked about different ways that Vermont could be made affordable for residents, including higher paying jobs and lower health care costs. 66% of respondents said that lower housing costs would “help a lot” to make Vermont more affordable, while 21% said that it would “help some”.