Editor’s note: This article by Lou Varricchio originally appeared at Watchdog.org and is Part 1 in the Affordable Housing Series.
MONTPELIER,Vt. — Gov. Phil Scott on Friday announced a four-fold plan to strengthen the local economy by creating more housing in areas designated for growth and reinvestment.
At a news conference timed with Vermont’s Downtown Day annual event celebrating the vibrancy of downtown and village center areas, Scott said one of the biggest obstacles for recruiting skilled workers to the state is the perception of cost and quality of housing.
“We want to create more housing opportunities. … It revitalizes downtown areas, creates more property tax revenues, creates jobs and builds stronger neighborhoods and communities,” Scott said from the governor’s ceremonial office at the Statehouse.
“There’s a gap between the need and availability of affordable units,” he added.
Scott’s four-fold plan will make increased investment in housing and public infrastructure an administration priority in the coming years. As outlined in a report prepared by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Scott’s plan to build more housing across the state includes the following:
- Support a $35 million housing bond to create more housing in areas designated for growth and investment; this will encourage more mixed-income housing projects and provide more housing for what Scott termed “the most vulnerable.”
- Increase the number of Vermont TIFs, or Tax Increment Financing districts. Scott said TIFs are important infrastructure investment tools and will stimulate investment in infrastructure for new housing.
- Add $200,000 to the Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit program to stimulate private investment in Vermont’s older and historic buildings. In turn, the funds will help bring these older structures “up to code” with various safety and accessibility features such as fire sprinklers and elevators.
- Expand the PHP, or Priority Housing Project exemption, from Act 250 which would remove the cap on the number of housing units in a PHP project for communities with a population over 10,000; this effort would adjust affordable rental compliance to create more housing. Scott noted that the PHP exemption will provide benefits for those new housing projects with existing Act 250 permits.
“These investments will strengthen Vermont’s economy, make living here more affordable, and protect the vulnerable,” Scott said.
The plan will be managed through The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), a department within the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.