Affordable Housing for Addison County Conversation

“Housing is absolutely essential to human flourishing.  Without stable shelter, it all falls apart.”  Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City

The bad news: We have a housing crisis in Addison County.

The good news: You can explore & support solutions.

YOU CAN HELP EASE THE HOUSING CRISIS  Spread the word among your friends, family and neighbors in Addison County. Housing advocates say that only about 1,000 people in Addison County know about these resources.  1) HomeShare Vermont  https://www.homesharevermont.org/   See Abi Sessions, Ellen Flight or Connie Kenna. 2)  Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)  Basic Info: https://accd.vermont.gov/adu  Addison County Guide:  https://acrpc.org/regional-programs/housing/  See Mike Small. 3) Homes First (Tiny Homes)  https://homesfirstvt.org/ See Jean Terwilliger.

Outreach Materials: Feel free to contact Little Pressroom to print copies of these for you where they have them on file or make your own.

AC Interfaith Affordable Housing Alliance Brochure 5.24

AC Interfaith Affordable Housing Alliance Display Poster

Addison County Interfaith Affordable Housing Alliance formed in 2022 to educate faith groups and our community about these options. We aim to meet on the first Monday of the month at 7 pm at CVUUS (Fellowship Hall), except when that is a holiday or Town Meeting and not over summer so resuming in September.  Contact leaders Mike Greenwood or Jean Terwilliger for more.

Community Conversations

Come Sunday June 9, 2024 at 4 pm for a Community Conversation at  St. Peter’s Parish Hall in Vergennes to learn about these three different initiatives to alleviate Addison County’s housing shortage and hear case studies and receive a valuable resource sheet. This will replicate earlier ones at The Congregational Church of Middlebury, UC on June 6, 2023 and Oct 29, 2023 with testimonial stories and breakout sessions.

HomeShare Vermont  For over 40 years, HomeShare Vermont has been matching people who have room in their homes with those seeking an affordable place to live. Time and care is taken to create a compatible match between host and guest and HomeShare Vermont provides ongoing support throughout the length of the match. HomeShare Vermont hosts consistently say they feeler safer and are happier because of their home share match.  Contact: HomeShareVermont.org. info@HomeShareVermont.org  (802) 863-5625

Homes First We seek to provide economically and environmentally sustainable “right-sized” homes to Addison County residents, that are designed and funded, fully or in large part, by the community that resides alongside them.  Currently partnering with Hannaford Career Center to build the first affordable, well-built, 250+ sf home of hopefully many to come. We envision neighborhoods of right-sized homes, 300-500 square feet, within the village and city centers of Addison County, to take advantage of public transportation and services. We would also consider placing a single tiny home on suitable lots throughout Addison County. Contact:  Homes First  https://homesfirstvt.org  ( 802) 398-5491

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)  An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is limited in size to the greater of 900 square feet or 30% of the primary dwelling.  It may have any number of bedrooms but must be clearly subordinate to the main structure. It is a self-contained, independent housing unit complete with a kitchen, bathroom, living space, and permanent utility connections (water, sewer, electric). It can be attached or detached to the primary home. Contact:  Adam Lougee, Director of the Addison County Regional Planning   Commission     https://acrpc.org   (802) 388-3141

Tiny House Tours and Work Days

Tour the tiny house being built by the Hannaford Career Center when it will be in the lot of the Counseling Service of Addison County at Cross St and Main St for 2024 Memorial Day weekend. It’ll be open during the Middlebury Memorial Day parade. Alliance members and their friends have pitched in to help with construction on work days and are mulling more work days to build out tiny houses and ADUs akin to the Habitat for Humanity model and inviting their volunteers to help.

Addison County Energy Fair

Learn about these options and other measures you can take to improve housing in Addison County on Saturday Sept 21 on the Vergennes Town Green. This is being coordinated again by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. Rain or shine.

Just Getting By Film Screening

See Bess O’Brien’s new documentary film Just Getting By at CVUUS on Saturday Sept 21 at 4:30 pm hosted by CVUUS and Middlebury College’s Center for Civic Engagement as part of its Clifford Symposium. Preceded by an opportunity to visit with housing solutions-related organizations assembling at 11 am for a brunch. Visit their displays throughout the afternoon and screening. Free and open to the public. See a trailer here.

Background

Recognizing that new housing developments like the one proposed for Seminary Street Extension in Middlebury are several years away from occupancy and that the housing need is urgent, some members of the CVUUS Race in America Caste book discussion group(Jean Terwilliger, Mike Small, Scott Barkdoll or Mike Greenwood) began convening in winter 2022 to inquire on what could be done to address the housing crisis. They aimed to meet on the first Monday of the month at CVUUS, sometimes with a Zoom option. It began with fact finding and brainstorming.

“Ideas ranged from helping families move into homes with the first month rent and moving expenses paid to converting garages and perhaps even barn spaces into apartments,” reported Mike Greenwood who oversees the discussions with Jean Terwilliger.

CVUUS explored partnering with organizations, such as Homes First VT, a small group of community members whose vision is a village of “right-sized” homes referred to as Tiny Homes. Homes First VT seeks land for this with a community gathering space situated within walking distance of the bus line in Addison County. This is very intentionally an alternative to the affordable housing developments constructed by Addison County Community Trust and Summit Properties. Their goal is to build homes by the community, one by one. Hannaford Career Center has agreed to build one Tiny Home per year for as long as Homes First VT is the “middleman.” The public will have an opportunity to view the first tiny home in the Middlebury Memorial Day Parade.

In February CVUUS welcomed other area faith groups and local organizations to brainstorm, forming the Interfaith Affordable Housing Alliance. It considered how to incentivize the growing number of homeowners with Air B&Bs to convert to long-term rental. There are over 100 short-term rentals in Middlebury. Faith groups learned that HomeShare VT, Charter House, CVOEO and other agencies are good resources for supporting landowners with lease and tenant guidelines and support. Some considered how to mobilize Habitat for Humanity volunteers and others in constructing a tiny home over the summer. It recognized that Addison County Housing Coalition convenes local stakeholder nonprofits monthly and that it organized a Homelessness Awareness Day in January and launched a Homelessness in Addison County website for residents to learn more about our housing crisis and what could be done.

Importantly, February’s attendees learned about exciting progress being made by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on advancing ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) to help create an apartment on your property. St. Stephen’s has been getting the word out that homeowners can apply for a state grant of up to $50,000 from VT Housing Improvement Program (VHIP). This is administered by Neighborworks of Western Vermont for Addison and Rutland county residents.

“This is a great program,” said Mike Small, a CVUUS member and Sudbury property owner who will share his experience creating an ADU at the June 4 community conversation.

The state’s ADU grant requires a homeowner match of $10,000 to access it. Up to six homeowners can get up to $5,000 from St. Stephen’s on a first come basis to help meet this match. The Addison County Regional Planning Commission will help administer this grant and is preparing a comprehensive ADU guide. “We’re providing a flowchart that helps you decide if an ADU is right for you,” offered ACRPC’s Adam Lougee who will provide an overview of the guide at the community conversation and hold ADU workshops to assist homeowners ready to take next steps.

If ADUs are not right for you, another great option might be HomeShare VT which matches homeowners with tenants who can offset their living expenses and provide care and companionship. Speakers will be on hand to explain their experience with HomeShare VT’s vetting process which includes background checks, arranging a meeting, designing a lease agreement, and piloting it for two weeks before making things more final.

The Interfaith Affordable Housing Alliance realized it wanted to advance three priorities: HomeShare VT, Tiny Homes, and ADUs. They approached Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson and Emily Joselson about spearheading a community conversation on housing solutions in a fashion similar to earlier ones they convened on essential topics for Middlebury and Addison County and they agreed to host the June 4 gathering.

“We hope you’ll join us in this vital community conversation on June 4 to learn more about what you can do to alleviate our housing shortage.”

First Session (Nov 28, 2022): Ideas ranged from helping families move into their home with the first month rent and moving expenses paid to converting garages and perhaps even barn spaces into apartments.  We also talked about partnering with organizations that are also doing good work in this area and demographics. Who do we want to support?

Second Session (Jan 9, 2023): We learned more about Homes First VT, a group of 7-10 members who meet regularly to generate and leverage community partnerships in order to alleviate our housing crisis. This includes CVUUS member Jean Terwilliger. Their long term vision is a village of 9-12 “right-sized” homes with a community gathering space situated within walking distance or on the bus line in Addison County. This is very intentionally as alternative to the affordable housing developments. Their short term goal is to build homes by the community, one by one. Hannaford Career Center has agreed to build one per year for as long as HomesFirst VT is the “middleman.”

Third Session (Feb 6 2023): We welcomed other faith groups in join us. We learned about some exciting progress being made by St Stephen’s on advancing ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) to help create apartments on your property. They are getting the word out that homeowners can apply for up to $50,000 from VT Housing Improvement Program (VHIP) administered by Neighborworks of Western Vermont for Addison county residents. They can also get up to $5,000 from St. Stephens administered by Addison County Regional Planning Commission to cover initial costs. St Stephen’s reported that ACRPC would like to hold workshops at ACRPC about it. We offered CVUUS as a larger venue. CVUUS’ Mike Small is prepared to tell his story about an ADU he is building right now with VHIP help. We’d like to host an Addison County Housing Summit this spring (early May?) to help get the word out about how to go about creating accessory dwelling units (ADU) with this available funding, raise money for affordable housing, and also share how to reduce energy costs for low income households.  Important to have good stories/case studies to share.  Are there houses we know of that could host small units? How much time/energy/money do we (CVUUS) have to contribute to existing projects or start new ones? We mulled how to incentivize the growing number of homeowners with Air B&Bs to convert to long-term rental. There are over 100 in Middlebury. HomeShare, Charter House, CVOEO and other agencies may be good resources for supporting landowners with lease and tenant guidelines and support.

Fourth Session (March 13, 2023):  We presented 10 areas that were mentioned most based on ideas generated at our Feb session.  From the 10, we selected 4 to work on.  The criterion for selection was a goal/action that could be fully or partially completed in the next six months or by September 2023. Individuals then self-selected which area they wanted to focus on and met in small groups.

Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs)

  1. Ellen Flight
  2. Ryan Nevius
  3. Abi Sessions
  4. Mike Small
  5. Sharon Tierra
  6. Laura Asermily
  7. Lise Anderson

HomeShare

  1. Ingrid Pixley
  2. Connor Timmons

Tiny Houses/Small Footprint Homes

  1. David Andrews
  2. Scott Barkdoll
  3. Mike Greenwood
  4. Carol Harden
  5. Alan Moore
  6. Jean Terwilliger

Fifth session (April 3, 2023): This was an opportunity for our groups to meet and continue their work. We decided we wanted to proceed with scheduling a Community Conversation: Housing Solutions  for Sun June 4 and proposed 3-5 pm in Congregational Church of Middlebury Unity Hall since we imagine breakouts and some media (showing a clip about Tiny House). We asked ourselves how to communicate who is hosting this and proposed “Interfaith Housing Solutions.” We wondered what the hook would be and decided to lead with “Your Home Could Help Solve Our Housing Crisis.” While the mock-up pic adds “network,” we opted to drop that since it is implied. (Someone noticed that the initials “IHS” also stand for “Christ” which we hope blesses this effort for good outcome!) We aim to have a “story-telling” panelist for each of the 3 areas on which we seek to focus:

  1. ADUs (Rebecca Burton and Mike Small interviewed by someone from our group)
  2. HomeShare (an Addison County couple interviewed by someone from HomeShare volunteer/staff)
  3. Tiny House Lot Permission (video clip with someone from Homes First VT introducing it and answering questions). We’ll reference Hannaford Career Center tiny house that will be on display in the Middlebury Memorial Day Parade that needs to be placed. HCC is willing to build one tiny house per year for Homes First VT which seeks property on which to place them.

We didn’t settle on the order though some proposed starting with the Tiny House media clip since it sets the stage for expressing the housing need. We plan a resource sheet that people can take and inviting contractors who we have learned are interested in doing ADUs so they can connect with homeowners who may be ready to proceed as well as other stakeholders. St Stephen’s is working with ACRPC to produce a Guide to ADUs and will have it ready for June 4.

Sixth Session (May 1, 2023): Finalize plans for our Community Conversation for June 4.

Community Conversations. june 4. handout (1)

Affordable Housing PR

Oct 2024: We repeated our Community Conversation on Oct 29 including a tour of the tiny house.

Jan & Feb 2024: We mulled ways to continue spreading the word about our three affordable housing options with residents and elected officials and making headway on zoning regulations toward locating a tiny house village. Affordable Housing Coalition action january 2024

Reference

HomesFirstVt has presented twice at CVUUS over the past years so they are familiar with it and support it. In addition, several congregants volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Addison County and serve on the Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) board. Several also promote HomeShare VT and have worked on advancing weatherization efforts and the state’s climate bill is targeting rehab and building more multifamily homes.

Habitat for Humanity focuses on building for families. Habitat has a stable volunteer builder group (including Bob House) and would appreciate donations. ACCT works mostly through the standard state and federal funding streams that help create 1-3 bedroom apartments in multi-family buildings (typically costing $300,000+ per unit), and also manages the mobile home parks it owns (no additional space available). ACCT would also love donations, but doesn’t really need volunteers except for its board. Homes First is focused on serving low-income single people, including those who have experienced homelessness, in very small affordable units ($85,000- $100,000 for the first one once hooked up to services) with a Habitat-like model. The CVUUS housing group seems to be heading towards trying to serve a similar group because there is a big need, with discussion of how to help young people stay in their communities after they graduate.

Addison County Housing Coalition convenes local stakeholder nonprofits on the first Thursday of the month at the United Way of Addison County offices off Boardman St. It is currently led by Charter House Executive Director Heidi Lacey. It organized a Homelessness Awareness Day on Jan 19, 2023 and launched a Homelessness in Addison County website in Feb 2023 to learn more about our housing crisis and what you can do.

Homelessness in Vermont increased by at least 18.5% between 2023 and 2024.  (Based on the HUD “point in time” (PIT) survey conducted Jan 24/25, 2024.  As someone who participated in it, I think the HUD method/process resulted in an undercount of the actual unhoused members of our communities, which recorded an 18% increase between 2023 & 2024.)  Vermont has experienced an almost 200% increase since before COVID.  Intersectional-associated community maladies (e.g., untreated mental illness, substance disorders, drug-related incarcerations, etc. are also increasing in Vermont).