Report Says Housing Costs Burden Many Low-Income Vermonters


MONTPELIER, Vt. – December 22, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Vermont’s aging housing stock is inadequate, causing low-income households to spend more of their money on housing than they can afford, according to a report released today.

“Families across Vermont are struggling to pay the bills,” Governor Jim Douglas said. “As legislators return to Montpelier, the focus must be on helping Vermonters rebound from the recession, whether it’s finding a good job or purchasing an affordable home.”

The 2010 Vermont Housing Needs Assessment estimates that the pace of new home construction needs to double to meet demand in coming years and push down prices.

“This report is a wake-up call for policy-makers, reminding them that we must literally re-double our efforts to build more homes for Vermont families,” said Tayt Brooks, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development.

“While we have taken steps in some areas, such as the new Vermont Neighborhoods initiative, we must do more to make it easier to build homes that are affordable to working Vermonters,” Brooks said.

Prepared by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency for the state as part of the process of drafting a federally-required 5-year housing plan, the report focuses on housing needs of the state’s lower-income households, and examines challenges facing special populations, such as seniors and Vermonters with extremely low incomes.

Among its findings:

• An estimated 62 percent (27,000) of lower income renter households in Vermont (incomes less than $41,000) spend more than 30 percent of their income for housing and nearly 17,000 of these households pay 50 percent or more of their income on housing;

• About 26,000 lower income Vermonters own homes with mortgages; an estimated 82 percent of these (21,000) pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and more than 7,000 pay 50 percent or more of their income on housing;

• Of the homes sold in Vermont in 2008, only 18 percent sold at a price that a household with a $41,000 income could afford;

• An estimated 5,400 Vermonters were homeless at some point during 2008; during a one-day count in January 2009, 46 percent of the homeless were adults and children in families;

• The vacancy rate among owner-occupied homes was 1.6 percent in 2008, the fourth lowest in the country; the vacancy rate among rental homes was the lowest in the country at 3.5 percent for 2008;

• Between 2007 and 2008, Vermont’s housing stock grew at a rate half that of the national average; only six states had slower growth rates;

• Nearly 5,000 rental units and 8,000 owner-occupied homes will likely need to be constructed between 2009 and 2014 to accommodate growth and loss of units to aging, requiring the rate of construction to double.

“The findings from this report are troubling,” said Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency. “While home prices are stabilizing now, there are still tens of thousands of low-income Vermonters who are paying unaffordable rents and mortgages. Many of these families are also living in substandard housing. It’s important for state leaders to understand these dynamics and respond accordingly.”

The Housing Needs Assessment is conducted every five years as part of the process of drafting a 5-year Consolidated Plan required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Consolidated Plan outlines the state’s priorities for use of federal funds provided for Community Development Block Grants (CBDG), Home Investment Partnerships (HOME), Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).

The state has held several public hearings around the state and will hold more in January, including:

• Brattleboro on January 12, 2010 at 11:00 A.M. Town of Brattleboro Municipal Building

• St. Albans on January 13, 2010 at 5:30 P.M. City of St. Albans City Council Chamber

• Village of Barton on January 14, 2010 at 4:00 P.M. at Memorial Hall

The state is also taking comments via an online survey; to access the survey, Vermonters can go to

“We hope that Vermonters will share their views on how these dollars should be spent,” Brooks said. “For example, our strategy has been to invest roughly half our Community Development Block Grants in housing and the other half in economic development. Should we continue that?”

For more information or to view or download the entire Housing Needs Assessment, please visit the Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Web site at:


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