[Hpn] [VT Governor Jim] Douglas unveils steps to make housing more affordable; by David Gram; AP -- VT Bureau; Boston Globe; 10/13/2005

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@gmail.com
Thu, 13 Oct 2005 21:44:59 -0400


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Thursday, October 13, 2005
Boston Globe
AP Wire
Local Vermont News section
Douglas unveils steps to make housing more affordable
http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2005/10/13/douglas_unveils_steps_to_make_housing_more_affordable/

By David Gram, Associated Press Writer  |  October 13, 2005

MONTPELIER, Vt. --Gov. James Douglas on Thursday said he will ask
lawmakers this winter to adopt a package of tax credits and other
incentives designed to encourage the construction of more affordable
housing in Vermont.

"I hear about the housing crisis everywhere I go," Douglas said in a
speech to a downtown development conference in Burlington. He said he
hears about it from seniors, young families and from employers who
complain that hiring is made more difficult by the lack of affordable
housing for the people they want to hire.

Douglas said the average home price in Vermont was approaching
$175,000. "That's unaffordable," he said in a later interview. "There
are a couple of reasons this is a problem. One is a lack of supply,
the supply and demand issue. A second is purchases of Vermont homes by
out-of-staters either as primary or second homes."

On the supply front, the governor said it's projected that Vermont
will be about 21,000 units short of what it needs in the rental
housing market by 2010. He also said if current trends continue, the
state will fall well short of the 12,300 more units of owner-occupied
housing it will need by decade's end.

The governor said he would make affordable housing a centerpiece of
his 2006 legislative agenda.

He said he had directed Secretary Kevin Dorn of the Commerce and
Community Development Agency and John Hall, commissioner of the
Department of Housing and Community Affairs, to work with for-profit
and nonprofit housing developers to come up with new incentives for
housing development and other ideas.

"In some cases this will result in multiple layers of incentives that
will together yield the best reason yet for developers to look for ...
opportunities in our traditional town and village centers," he told
the conference of advocates for Vermont's downtowns.

But the governor said he wanted to take other steps as well, including
looking for state-owned property that could be used for housing
development. "I'm not talking about the state parks or anything like
that," but the state owns numerous parcels in less sensitive areas
that might be suitable for housing, he said. He added that he had
asked state agencies to develop an inventory of such properties.

He said the properties would be used to create a "land bank." Land
would be sold to housing developers, with the proviso that the less
expensive the housing they planned to build, the less expensive the
land. Money made from the sales would be put toward purchases of other
land, the governor said.

The state permitting process would be speeded up for housing, with
some parcels eligible for "pre-permitting," allowing construction of
multiple units without seeking separate permits for each.

Other proposals outlined by Douglas included:

-- Tax credits for developers building units to sell for less than $200,000.

-- Tax credits for employers who offer special assistance to workers
to buy homes.

-- More "transitional housing" for people coming out of the
corrections system, substance abuse programs or homelessness.

-- An expansion of training programs in the construction and other
technical trades to address a shortage of workers in those fields.

-- Converting mobile homes in parks owned by the Vermont State Housing
Authority to low-cost, "stick-built" homes. Douglas said mobile homes
depreciate over time, while houses appreciate in value.

-- Development of a new type of mortgage that could have a fixed rate,
but whose payments would start low and increase with time. That will
address first-time home buyers whose incomes are limited but will grow
as their careers progress, he said.

Douglas' spokesman, Jason Gibbs, said that the administration had not
developed a cost estimate for the programs. He said Douglas would like
to accomplish as many of the goals as he can in 2006, but willing to
mount a multiyear effort if need be.

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Morgan W. Brown
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