Vt. lawmakers make push for affordable housing funding

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HARTFORD, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont lawmakers hope to take on affordable housing again next year by pushing for a major bond measure after a similar effort fizzled last session.

While the lack of affordable housing in Chittenden County has gotten considerable attention in recent years, recent reports have highlighted the pace of construction has declined statewide. Chittenden County Senator Michael Sirotkin and other lawmakers hit the road Wednesday to hear from communities about their housing challenges.

"When you're only earning $12 an hour and the housing that you want to rent for your family would really be perfect for someone who is earning $20," said Sen. Allison Clarkson, D-Windsor County.

Developers, business owners and lawmakers put their heads together in Hartford to find a solution at the Statehouse. In the Upper Valley experts say a low unemployment rate mixed with a low vacancy rate makes it hard for employers bringing people to the state.

"They often get here and arrive and then they're overwhelmed by how much its going to cost to live here," said Andrew Winter with the Twin Pines Housing Trust.

Affordability is a focus of Governor Scott's administration. Lawmakers are also embracing it through public private partnerships to make new opportunity for Vermonters.

In 2017 the state approved a $37 million housing bond which created homes -- like these units in Hartford -- to provide for some 600 Vermonters.

A push for a similar bond was snuffed out earlier this year after concerns from the state treasurer after the state's bond rating was downgraded. But these lawmakers say they are ready to tackle the issue again when they return to Montpelier in January.

"We need to build all levels of housing -- workforce, low-income and moderate income housing and we need to build a lot of it ASAP," Sen Clarkson said.

The renewed affordable housing push comes at the same time as a new Joint Fiscal Office report that finds lower and middle-income people are continuing to leave the state.