Morristown affordable housing viewed as template for statewide efforts

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 4:32 PM EDT
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MORRISTOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - The cost of housing in Vermont is through the roof, but state leaders are highlighting a Lamoille County project that aims to keep costs low, just one of a slate of similar efforts on the drawing board around the state.

It’s no secret that the housing market around the region is red hot. In Morristown, officials say 350 families were on a waiting list this summer for just three vacant units.

State and local leaders on Thursday checked out the progress on the 24-unit apartment project dubbed The Village Center.

“To add 24 at a time -- plus the other 16 we’re working on -- that’s a big deal. That adds a big chunk that we really need right now,” said Jim Lovinski, executive director of the Lamoille Housing Partnership.

The project includes a mix of low-income and market-rate apartments with monthly rents ranging from $600 to $1,800. Officials say the primary goal is affordability, with tenants paying less than 30% of their monthly income.

But that goal is far cry from the current reality of many Vermonters. A recent survey in Lamoille County found residents spend more than half of their income on housing.

“When you start spending more than 30% of your income on housing, then you start squeezing out food, transportation, and health care,” said Josh Hanford, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development

With some 70 families in Lamoille County experiencing homelessness, officials say the Morristown project and others like it are in high demand.

The project is one of many paid for with $13 million in new community block grants. The state has used the federally funded program for a gamut of projects including a substance use recovery center in Barre, a new child care center in Alburgh, and water system upgrades in Randolph.

The new funds come at the same time as hundreds of millions in American Rescue Plan cash has also been earmarked for housing. But just because the money is there, officials say it doesn’t mean it will get built. The state will also need to provide money to leverage the funds and the governor says Act 250 reform will also pave the way for the projects. “This money is going to be coming fast and furious over the next few years and we have to be prepared. We can’t be delayed by any Act 250 or redundancy in local permitting versus state permitting,” Governor Scott said.

Morristown officials hope to have The Village Center apartments filled next summer.

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