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Lawmakers propose solutions – NECNMEERI News

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mEERI NEWS

With many New England communities grappling with a lack of available housing and sky-high prices — for rental and ownership options — Vermont has a new tool in its multi-pronged approach that many have labeled a housing have done the crisis

The objective of this program is to replace dilapidated buildings and create more affordable housing units across the state.

“There are run-down, empty houses everywhere,” observed landlord Ryan Walton, who owns a run-down property in Rutland that will soon get a second life.

Walton’s property on Route 7, which has two three-bedroom apartments, is being refreshed with dramatic improvements, inside and out, thanks to the Vermont Housing Improvement Program.

“Programs like this make America the best country in the world,” Walton said Wednesday. “They also make Vermont the best state in the country.”

Calling the housing shortage one of the most pressing problems in Vermont, and a drag on economic development, lawmakers set aside $20 million to provide grants to homeowners to fix up blighted spaces that could be livable with some renovations. are The state also squeezes landlords for cash.

Josh Hanford, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, said the program provides an average of $30,000 in grants to bring dilapidated units back online. As a condition of receiving the grant, the properties become affordable housing, Hanford emphasized.

Walton predicts the renovations needed to bring his apartments online will be completed by late winter or spring of 2023.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, labeled the program a potential game-changer, especially for low-income people and those at risk of homelessness.

“Yes, we need to build new homes,” Scott admitted. “But we also recognize that there’s a lot of existing housing stock, sitting empty, because it’s either not up to code or requires a lot of time and money that people don’t have.”

The governor’s challenger in November, Democrat Brenda Siegel, has promised a sharper focus on housing issues. Siegel is also emphasizing the overdose crisis and reproductive freedom in his campaign platform.

“My concern right now is that what’s happening is disorganized and piecemeal,” Siegel said of Vermont’s response to the housing crisis. “No matter who you are in this state right now, if you need to sell your home, if you need to buy a home, if you want to own a home, you’re in trouble, because here It’s not. Vacancy rates and costs are too high.”

The incumbent said he is proud of the work his administration and lawmakers in the Vermont Legislature have done to rapidly improve access to a range of housing options — including a quarter of a billion in U.S. Rescue Plan funds for Vermont’s housing sector. By directing dollars.

“This is the kind of initiative that will move the needle,” Scott said of the Vermont Housing Improvement Program, adding that he sees it as complementary to other initiatives in Vermont’s approach to improving access to housing.

Scott said improving access to a range of housing options will remain a priority if he wins re-election in November.

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