Press

Housing Needs Summit Identifies Opportunities and Challenges

February 6, 2019

Vermont Business Magazine On January 29th, Lamoille Housing Partnership (LHP,) Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC,) and Stowe Land Trust (SLT) hosted a Housing Needs Summit that featured a data report of the Lamoille Valley’s housing landscape, and a panelist discussion that identified opportunities and challenges to address the region’s housing needs. 

On a snowy Tuesday morning at Green Mountain Technology & Career Center, more than 70 community members and a diverse array of professionals convened to learn about the housing landscape in Lamoille County and Hardwick. “While composing studies is always good for producing information, getting the report findings out in the community where it will produce the best results is critical,” explains Lamoille Housing Partnership Executive Director, Jim Lovinsky. Lea Kilvádyová, Regional Planner at the Lamoille County Planning Commission, agrees. “The housing challenges outlined in the report are real; we need to share the findings and hear the feedback from community members.” 

A comprehensive data presentation by Doug Kennedy Advisors showed that the study area, Lamoille County and Hardwick, have a shortage of housing. Kennedy authored the “Lamoille Housing Study & Needs Assessment” report published for LHP, LCPC and SLT in 2018. Several key variables that were pinpointed illustrate the study area’s housing crunch, such as housing stock, housing availability, vacancy rates, and incomes and wages. The nuances of the data give scope to some deeper factors that influence and affect the study area’s housing landscape, such as the discrepancy between housing need and availability, the area’s ratio of housing stock and type as it relates to demographics and incomes, income inequality between communities, area demographics that reflect the housing stock needed, as well as projections for the future based on current study data. 

Significant additional factors include the study area’s population growth, demand for market-rate rentals that show profitability-potential in new development, and increasing demand for senior housing across all income brackets. “I recently spoke to a local Selectboard member who said that in order to grow the local economy, we first need to take care of our people,” shares Kilvádyová. “Decent housing that people can afford is a basic need for all.” 

A robust panelist discussion followed Kennedy’s data presentation, comprised of nine professionals within business, education, healthcare, real estate, development, human service and affordable housing development sectors, as well as representatives from municipalities and State government. “We wanted to gather community leaders to see and to hear the data, understand the housing shortage’s effects on different parts of the community, and to engage in finding collaborative solutions,” says Lovinsky. 

“It was great to see the energy, interest, and expertise gathered in the room that cut across sectors and communities,” says Stowe Land Trust Executive Director, Kristen Sharpless. Each panelist shared their takeaways from Kennedy’s report, and identified housing opportunities and challenges that they view through the lens of their profession. The housing opportunities identified ranged from strong partnerships between public and private entities, community-based investments in programs to prevent evictions and homelessness, an increase in funding of federal and state subsidies to make housing price points affordable, and renter-centric support systems to connect housing insecure residents with resources to achieve housing affordability. Adversely, many challenges mentioned were directly connected to windows for opportunity; however, additional housing challenges that were identified included exclusionary zoning practices that eliminate housing development for specific populations, out of sync federal housing and economic policies, low availability of subsidies and development tax credits, and continuously rising development costs. 

“This is such a complicated issue that will not be solved without engaging the whole community,” says Lovinsky. “LHP, LCPC, and SLT wanted to come away from the Summit with some ideas to address the pressing issues around the lack of good housing in the area, such as homelessness, the growing gap between household incomes and increasing rental costs, and the cost of new home construction. Having a panel of diverse leaders from across the community was a great way to spark conversations among participants.” 

“It’s clear that there is no easy answer to solving the housing shortage in our area, but that there is lots of potential for exploring new strategies and partnerships that could make a positive difference,” says Sharpless. “For Stowe Land Trust, we continue to be very interested in the possibility of intentionally collaborating on a dual housing and conservation project in our community and look forward to exploring those opportunities.” 

“The housing issues we are facing are very complex and many players will need to work together to find solutions,” says Kilvádyová. “These players include housing specialists to identify housing needs, planners and legislators to facilitate projects, and landowners committed to creating housing opportunities for all.” 

In the spring, LHP, LCPC, and SLT will follow up with a Housing Solutions Summit to reconvene attendees and panelists with the goal of working collaboratively to find actionable solutions and opportunities to the challenges of housing development identified at the Housing Needs Summit. Lovinsky says he feels inspired by “the positive and constructive energy produced by a smart, caring, dedicated group of community leaders who have come together to tackle a pressing community need like housing.” He adds, “I’m excited to get them together again to delve into the challenges and opportunities they identified at the Housing Needs Summit. The best change is made with intention.” Details will be announced as the Housing Solutions Summit date approaches. 

If you did not attend the Housing Needs Summit, a copy of the “Lamoille Housing Needs & Assessment Study” and Doug Kennedy Advisors’ Summit presentation is available for download; a recording of January 29th’s Housing Needs Summit will also be available online in February, courtesy of Green Mountain Access TV. These resources are available on Lamoille Housing Partnership’s website, www.lamoillehousing.org.  (link is external) 

Lamoille Housing Partnership develops, rehabilitates, and maintains safe, decent, energy efficient affordable housing through rental, home ownership, and other means to low and moderate income persons and families living within Lamoille County and the Town of Hardwick. Lamoille Housing Partnership provides such assistance without discrimination or prejudice, using a combination of private and public funding partnerships. Lamoille Housing Partnership is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Learn more at www.lamoillehousing.org.  (link is external) 

Source: Hyde Park, VT | February 6, 2019. Lamoille Housing Partnership

Leahy Announces $2.6 million to Conserve Hunger Mountain Headwaters

Sen. Patrick Leahy announces $2.6 million in federal funds to conserve forestland during a press event in Waterbury Center on August 3rd.
Stowe Land Trust Executive Director, Kristen Sharpless, expressed the value of organizations banding together for the common cause of conserving land.

August 3, 2018

WATERBURY CENTER — With the unspoiled Worcester Range in the background Friday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy announced $2.6 million in federal funding to conserve 1,800 acres of land.

Addressing a crowd of approximately 30 people at Hope Davey Memorial Park on Maple Street, which has views of the land to be preserved, Leahy spoke of how he got the money into the budget and also of the importance of conserving land. 

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy told the gathering that the Trump administration had removed all money for land conservation from the most recent federal budget. “I was there when President Trump sought to eliminate it in the 2018-19 budget. He zeroed it out,” Leahy said. “I said, ‘I have a little amendment.’” The amendment was to allocate $67 million to conserve land throughout the United States, including in Middlesex, the senator’s home town. 

Among other reasons to do so, according to Leahy, the “outdoor economy” generates $5.5 billion and supports 50,000 Vermont jobs, particularly in the Stowe and Waterbury areas. 

This funding, through the Forest Legacy program for the Hunger Mountain Headwaters, will conserve land with popular hiking trails with access to Mt Hunger and the Stowe Pinnacle Trail. 

“It is not only for the people of my generation, but my children, grandchildren and generations to come. If you don’t protect it, it will get developed and you don’t get it back,” Leahy said. 

Hal Ellms, owner of the Pinnacle Outdoor Group, a company representing outdoor retail sporting products and a member of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative steering committee, spoke after Leahy. 

Ellms thanked Leahy for being a “strong and dignified” voice for Vermonters. He then outlined how the outdoor industry generates billions of dollars in economic activity from hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking and mountain biking. Access to unspoiled land is critical to these avocations, he said, and land conservation is necessary to provide such access. Also, keeping the land open and approachable promotes healthy living and higher property values, Ellms said. 

Land conservation further helps slow climate change because an intact ecosystem provides a buffer against global warming, accoridng to Ellms. 

Next to speak was Kristen Sharpless of the Stowe Land Trust. She said her organization had typically been oriented toward Stowe’s Mount Mansfield, but she also has an appreciation for the conserved land she called “The Worcesters.” 

“It is a quieter, more remote place. We view Mt. Hunger as being our community’s playground as well,” Sharpless said. She went on to express the value of organizations banding together for the common cause of conserving land, including a special appreciation for private landowners. 

Also tipping his hat to private landowners was Michael Snyder, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. He went on to describe the natural resources that benefit from conservation, including the Hunger Mountain Headwaters, brook trout streams and unspoiled habitat. “This is a functional landscape,” said Snyder, who thinks of the word “forest” as a verb rather than a noun “because of all they do” such as providing a natural infrastructure that keeps people healthy, and keeps people connected to both the land and to each other. 

The Forest Legacy Program was created by Leahy in the 1990 Farm Bill and has conserved 90,000 acres of forestland since its creation, and more than 2.75 million acres nationwide, according to a press release.

More information about fundraising for the Hunger Mountain Headwaters project can be found at www.stowelandtrust.org/current/.

Source: Times Argus
https://www.timesargus.com/articles/leahy-announces-2-6-million-to-conserve-mt-hunger-headwaters/