Arguably the most important of these three interrelated issues is increasing the number of housing units. It will be difficult to fill vacancies or expand child care if people do not have an affordable place to live.
In Addison County, Fred Kenney of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. said the area needs more middle-income workforce housing (80 to 100 percent of the area median income).
He knows the state is working on legislation to expand moderate-income housing. However, it can take years before new units are ready for occupancy.
Kenney believes more money and less regulation could go a long way toward solving Vermont’s housing crisis.
Some organizations, such as Middlebury College, address the shortage directly.
To address the housing shortage, Middlebury acquired a $1.5 million property that Summit Properties is developing into workforce, affordable and market-rate housing.
In April, the college announced it had purchased the 35-acre site. The school will gradually sell the land to Summit as it develops the property. Summit plans to build 100 units of one- to four-bedroom apartments. Depending on the final mix of apartment types, the development will house between 250 and 350 people.
“Middlebury College’s goal with this project is to support one of the community’s biggest challenges: affordable housing,” said David Provost, Middlebury’s executive vice president of finance and administration. “The College’s ability to attract and retain faculty and staff depends on the economic development of the City of Middlebury, Addison County and the State of Vermont. This provides the beginning of solutions for the college, Porter Medical Center and all businesses in the region.”
In Addison County, households with incomes of approximately $50,000 to $80,000 are considered to be served by workforce housing.
Firehouse Apartments in Bristol are also in the works. Addison County Community Trust and Evernorth are partnering to create 15 apartments for low- and moderate-income households. Four more apartments will be allocated as supportive housing for homeless or at-risk households.
The new building is part of Stoney Hill’s master development. It includes a new fire station, business park and mixed-income housing.
Realtor Krista Hofsis with Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty says there’s still a lot to see on the real estate side of the housing market.
Looking at June data from Four Seasons Sotheby’s, the market appears to be slowing.
Compared to the previous year, the number of sales and inventory months has decreased. However, median listing and sale prices have increased over the same period.
June marked the first time since January that Addison County had fewer new listings (38) than the previous month (May had 48), Hofsis said.
“We still have an inventory problem in the state of Vermont, which is that there is not a lot of inventory and there are a lot of buyers,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful sale, it just means we have a limited selection.”
Whispers of a Recession Ending a Pandemic Seller’s Market. Hofsis believes it affects the way people think about the market.
“In the last week, several people have come to me and said: “Oh, it’s not a seller’s market anymore. It’s not a good time to sell anymore,” he recalls. “And that’s not true. But even if that’s what people are hearing, they may be less likely to list their property now.”
He said the county’s month-long inventory shows a solid seller’s market.
Hofsis said the price dropped as soon as the buyer moved from Chittenden to Addison County. Not so much anymore. He attributes this to increased demand and remote work, which has expanded the geographic market for people’s housing.
He noted that the six-month median for homes listed in Addison County was $420,000. Today’s median price in July was $480,000.
The county’s condominium market has been brisk, and the office still sees an influx of out-of-state buyers.
In his experience, people moving to Vermont mostly come from the West Coast, looking for a less volatile environment with fewer natural disasters.
Hofsis said out-of-state buyers have much more flexibility in where they move. Their destination is Vermont.
“They’re just looking for the Vermont mansion and lifestyle,” he said. “They’re special properties, and I think they’re leaving the market faster.”
In comparison, government buyers typically have more restrictions. They commute for a specific job and need to be within commuting distance.
Unfortunately, many local buyers are being priced out of the market.
“The rate of appreciation has just been deceptive,” he said. “So it’s really affecting first-time homebuyers in the state in particular.”
Hofsis notes that the expected appreciation rate in a given year is five percent. In 2021, the state averaged about 20 percent.
That rate of appreciation should not continue, he said. However, between that and interest rate hikes, a home is likely out of reach for first-time buyers.
One positive trend in the current market is that homes considered “fixer upper” are no longer staying on the market. This trend could mean an overall improvement in Vermont’s housing stock.
“If there was a silver lining in my mind, and I’m also into really historic homes, it would be that they’re getting some TLC now, and when they’re retrofitted, they’re going to be great options,” Hofsis said. .
Olga Peters is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont.