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Middlebury College buys land to build affordable housing in community

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Middlebury College hopes a $1.5 million land buy in downtown Middlebury will help ease the burden of finding affordable housing in the area.

Our Melissa Cooney found out what Middlebury intends to develop on the 35-acre parcel and who in the community it could affect.

“Regular people don’t have a chance,” said Eugene Roy who built his East Middlebury home 40 years ago.

Roy says his son and his family are looking to return to Middlebury but the family can’t find an affordable place.

“They come on the market, and then all sudden they’re priced out of what we can afford,” he said.

Tales of Middlebury’s tight housing market are becoming commonplace.

The town says there’s a high need for affordable housing, specifically for folks who come to Middlebury to work, whether that’s in town, at the college or at Porter Medical Center.

“We’ve had a number of occasions where staff could not take jobs here because of a lack of housing,” said Thomas Thompson, the president and COO of Porter Medical Center.

Thompson says a recent survey revealed about one-third of their staff commute from outside of Addison County, and one-third of those commuters say they’d live closer to work if they had an affordable option.

At Middlebury College, David Provost of the school says 20% of their workforce commutes from New York.

“We are trying to solve a community problem,” Provost said.

So, the college purchased a 35-acre parcel of land downtown and says they plan to turn it into affordable and workforce housing. The goal is to have varying one- to four-bedroom spaces that would house 250-350 people. The mix of housing types, apartments or homes, hasn’t been decided yet.

“Other employers and we believe that making it available to the open market following some guidance around how to make sure is obtainable and affordable to middle-class workers here in Middlebury, as well as affordable to low-income housing-seekers,” Provost said.

Provost says the parcel of land was chosen because it’s so close to downtown and it’s already zoned for high-density residential living.

Middlebury Planning and Zoning Director Jennifer Miller agrees.

“In conversations with the developer in the college early on, they’ve expressed a desire to have a real mixed neighborhood, mixed-income, mixed variety of housing types. And so I’m really looking forward to having that be like a real dynamic neighborhood that contributes to the surrounding neighborhoods and downtown as a whole,” Miller said.

The college says the developer is looking to begin construction in eight months, with the estimated $40 million development to be completed over the next five to six years.

Roy says he’ll be watching to see what happens next.

“They’re talking about doing affordable housing. Now the word affordable housing is how much, I don’t know. Yeah. You know, but the college is good people to deal with, they support Middlebury very well and you know, there’s, so we’ll see,” Roy said.

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