Inclusionary zoning changes coming to Burlington

Burlington City Councilors approved a minor zoning change to help developers meet the demand for affordable housing in the city.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 11:53 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington City Councilors Monday approved a minor zoning change to help developers meet the demand for affordable housing in the city.

The inclusionary zoning ordinance will change the type and size of affordable units developers are required to have in buildings.

The Champlain Housing Trust pushed for the change saying it will allow developers to focus on creating the type of affordable units actually in demand. “I think this by itself a positive step in the right direction,” said the group’s Michael Monte.

Prior rules required the number of bedrooms in inclusionary units and market units to be equal. For example, if 15% of market units were three bedrooms, 15% of affordable units would have to be, too.

“For instance, in downtown and that location, the notion of having lots of three-bedrooms doesn’t really quite make some sense. We know that three-bedrooms will lease up in other parts of the city but not in the middle of downtown,” Monte said.

Burlington City Planner Meagan Tuttle says their goal is for housing developments in the city to be successful, which means allowing them to build for demand. Changes passed by councilors give developers the flexibility to decide what type of units will be included in inclusionary housing and also allows them to build smaller, but inhabitable units. “There’s a lot of unique challenges to making housing development work in Burlington, so this is an option for developers to pursue in order to make a project work,” she said.

Monte and Tuttle both say this change is a step in the right direction. “There’s probably plenty of opportunities for doing things like increasing density in different locations providing opportunities for more development to occur in Burlington,” Monte said.

“We’re working on a number of zoning amendments right now that are really trying to address the number of ways our community is struggling trying to find housing, whether it’s the availability of housing or the type and affordability,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle says a few surrounding municipalities, including South Burlington, have inclusionary zoning rules. That city’s rules, as well as other major cities like New York and Boston, helped inform the Burlington policy.

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