Montpelier proposed housing projects attract interest

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 6:06 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Several big housing project proposals in Montpelier aim to offer a mix of affordable housing. Like the rest of Vermont, housing in the capital city is tight, but local officials hope new efforts underway will change that.

Ask just about anyone in Montpelier and they’ll tell you the need for affordable housing is great “It’s definitely a deterrent for people trying to move in -- that housing is scarce,” said local resident Thomas Fallon. He considers himself lucky after he found an apartment in the dead of winter

Housing advocates say there hasn’t been a significant investment in housing in years. “In general, the housing needs of Montpelier -- which are I believe the same across all Washington County -- are that need more housing of all hypes and of all incomes types,” said Zachariah Watson with Habitat for Humanity of Central Vermont. He says 32% of Vermont homeowners are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Rehabbing older homes in central Vermont is financially out of reach for many, according to Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser. “Materials, site acquisition, permitting -- all of that makes it very challenging to sell or rent housing that’s in the affordable band that people are looking for,” he said.

Watson and his team are in the planning stages for 75 to 100 new mixed-income housing units on Northfield Street on a 50-acre plot across the street from the Econolodge. The complex of single and multi-unit rentals, which is somewhat unusual for a Habitat project, aims to help families enter homeownership. “If we weren’t building here, we’d be building in rural communities without public services, and the impact of forest fragmentation would be worse and it would destroy the character of rural Vermont,” Watson said.

Next door to the Econolodge, on the site where the former Brown Derby restaurant was located, the Milton-based Bove brothers hope to build 42 apartment units.

And across town, Montpelier is also crafting plans for housing and a rec center at the old Elks Club after voters on Town Meeting Day supported a bond measure to buy the property. Even then, it could still be years before anyone moves into any of these projects. Fallon says he’d like to see more housing and designated greenspace to improve the quality of life. “It’s not just about housing but about making the community better and more beautiful too,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity will be holding public forums in the coming months and is looking to conclude its study by the end of this summer. If they choose to move forward, officials say they are hoping to break ground in 2024.

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