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More affordable housing for seniors on the way in South Hero

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:37 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - New housing on the way in South Hero seeks to give seniors homes at an affordable cost. It’s the latest to deal with Vermont’s housing and affordability crunch.

It’s the first affordable housing project in South Hero in more than 15 years.

Local and state leaders on Wednesday broke ground on a new 30-unit senior housing complex made up of affordable and mixed-income apartments.

Cathedral Square spearheaded the project. They say there are about 1,300 people on their waiting list.

“We could build tomorrow what has taken us 40 years to build and still not have enough to meet the need,” said Kim Fitzgerald, the CEO of Cathedral Square.

Fitzgerald says the site, dubbed Bayview Crossing, will also be near transportation, meals and wellness services.

But the $10 million project didn’t come without its challenges. Project leaders struggled to find acquired water connections and set up a septic system.

Leaders call it a big deal and say it will make a difference for seniors in search of housing.

“We know housing, especially housing working Vermonters and retirees can afford is in tremendous need all across Vermont,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

This isn’t the first affordable housing complex Cathedral Square has embarked on. Several decades ago, they built a complex in downtown Burlington.

Housing experts tell me that some of the biggest challenges to building more affordable housing lie on the local level.

A new study conducted by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency this summer outlines the challenges developers and builders face in building affordable housing projects like these.

Chief among them, a need for consistent zoning regulations.

Experts say local red tape - can put developers and builders in the red before shovels even make it into the ground.

“How many approvals do they have to get? How long is the permitting process? How unpredictable is that whole process? That adds a lot to the cost of housing,” said Leslie Black-Plumeau, the community relations and research manager for VHFA.

But local zoning boards are often made up of volunteers. They call the shots of what can be built where and when.

As Vermont mulls over spending a quarter-billion dollars in new federal cash. Fitzgerald says they need support and flexibility in building new units.

“I think what people don’t realize is how long it takes to pull these properties together and how much finding it needs as well,” Fitzgerald said.

Cathedral Square hopes to have seniors begin moving in next fall.

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