Push to expand Chittenden County housing falls short of goal

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Ask just about anyone and they'll tell you housing in Chittenden County is expensive, but a multi-year effort underway to add more housing to drive prices down is only meeting some of its goals.

Michael Simoneau has been a realtor in the Burlington area for 40 years. "There are a lot of people out there who would like to own their homes, who find themselves unable to do so because of the supply of housing does not meet the demand," Simoneau said.

And most everybody agrees that's what's keeping prices high for renters and buyers.

"Housing remains our largest social social challenge as a region," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

At a press conference Wednesday, Burlington and state leaders gathered to announce the results of the Building Homes Together Campaign.

"We still have a lot of demand for housing in Chittenden County," said Charlie Baker with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

The five-year campaign calls for 3,500 new homes in Chittenden County, with 700 of them considered affordable with income requirements.

Two years into that effort and they've added 1,600 homes with 191 of them affordable.

"Right now we are short on the affordable housing goal," Weinberger said. But the mayor says he isn't concerned because any added housing is good and it will take the region a while to play catch up. "Two good years don't compensate for decades of under production."

Current vacancy rates sit at 1.7 Percent, well below the 5 percent considered healthy. Local officials say challenges to create more housing include the high cost of land, supplies, and labor.

As construction continues on future housing, Simoneau says that the housing market will respond to the challenge of affordable housing, but that it will take a lot of time to fix. "This is the area that faces the greatest challenge to satisfy the affordable housing needs of people who want to rent or purchase in this area," he said.