Barre City to spend $1M on housing to help ‘missing middle’

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 5:50 PM EST
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BARRE CITY, Vt. (WCAX) - Filling the missing middle with federal cash-- across Vermont, communities are searching for ways to build more housing for middle-income Vermonters or rebuild what already exists.

It’s part of what leaders say needs to happen for workers to move to the Green Mountains and to keep the ones who are already here.

Here’s how one Vermont city hopes to help the missing middle.

Leaders in Barre, a city of 8,500 people, hope to help the missing middle by launching a federally funded housing blitz to create 125 homes in the next five years.

What was a housing crunch is now more acute.

“We do have a housing crisis and people need to be home,” Barre Mayor Lucas Herring said.

In Barre City, leaders say people living in subsidized housing are looking to take the next step up into homeownership.

“There are no condos they can afford, there weren’t enough condos, duplexes, triplexes-- all of those things are missing,” Barre City Councilor Samn Stockwell said.

The so-called missing middle. The missing middle is a key feature in Barre’s new $1 million housing investment plan, a new revolving housing loan fund to renovate commercial properties and rehab 25 vacant homes that are currently languishing on the market.

“For an average homeowner or someone that wants to buy a home, they’re not going to be able to fix it up,” Stockwell said.

City leaders say vacant homes are just one example of houses that could use a small investment and could have a big impact on the city’s housing crunch.

Lawmakers and the Scott administration are working together to build more housing of all types. Housing and Community Development Commissioner Josh Hanford says this week, there are just over 100 homes priced between $220,000 and $300,000 available in the entire state.

“The cost of construction when you add the cost of lumber, supplies, increased labor costs, labor regulations-- it’s driven that modest home production cost up but the incomes haven’t risen,” Hanford said.

Lawmakers are considering spending $15 million for a missing middle pilot project using federal tax credits to spur more home construction.

Back in Barre, leaders say building and rehabbing housing needs to be tackled at the local and state level.

“We also have to make sure we find ways to find those who are looking to move up and live not just in the $150,000 range but also the $300,000 range have a place to move to because that opens up a market for those who can afford that lower-priced housing,” Mayor Herring said.

Leaders say freeing up homes by developing those stepping stones is one more way to keep Vermonters in their communities and combat declining demographic trends.

The rest of Barre’s ARPA funding-- about $1.5 million-- will go toward infrastructure improvements and community grants.

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