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Housing Committee Profile: Manchester Working Group

“In order to have a vibrant downtown, you need to have people living downtown.”

– Manchester Planning and Zoning Director and Housing Working Group Chair Janet Hurley

In 2015, an economic development study identified a large population of people who worked in Manchester but lived elsewhere. The town had carried out the study as research for an enormous rezoning effort that increased downtown residential density, allowed for taller buildings, and incentivized the development of affordable housing outside of the downtown district.

Although the zoning changes had paved the way for more development, the town also needed an understanding of the most efficient, economical, and targeted way to meet the demand, especially in downtown Manchester. “In order to have a vibrant downtown, you need to have people living downtown,” said Janet Hurley, the town’s Planning and Zoning Director.

In December 2018, Manchester received funding from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development’s Municipal Planning Grant Program. This grant awarded $10,800 for a detailed analysis that showed the best way to increase the amount of housing downtown. In order to implement the analysis’s recommendations, the Working Group was established that same month with Janet Hurley as its chair.

It remains to be seen if the 2015 zoning changes were enough to facilitate the developments that Manchester needs. The Working Group will discuss whether further ordinance changes are needed and will also find ways to mitigate the high cost of land and construction in the town.

Much of the housing in Manchester is high-end real estate, so the 2015 zoning changes expanded the category of workforce (affordable) housing to include households that made significantly more than the area median income – up to 250% of the AMI -- as the area median income is low compared to the cost of housing. “We need to look not just at the federal definition [of affordable housing]…that’s not a sufficient enough demographic for Manchester to capture the need,” Janet said. “…For its population, it has a rather outsized economy.”

Janet encourages other towns utilize the Municipal Planning Grant Program through the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and collaborate with their Regional Planning Commission. 

- Ryan Murphy & Annie McAneny, CVOEO