Regional Housing Targets - Feb 20, 2024

The House General & Housing Committee returned to a conversation around setting regional housing targets on Tuesday. Maura Collins (Executive Director, Vermont Housing Finance Agency) had comments regarding the Draft 1.1 that the Committee was reviewing. She was very supportive of the “great changes” regarding the Housing Needs Assessment, with one caveat. She pointed to the Building Homes Together Campaign (Chittenden County) which also set a target but also assumed 25% would be “affordable units.” She noted that in some years that program has come close to meeting the targets but fell short of the “affordable” goals.

So, she would support a genera 25% affordable target, but would give the Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) to adjust them as necessary. Some may feel that target is “not a fair estimate for every region of the state,” she noted, but “trying to be efficient and save money and time by calculating exactly how many affordable units are needed in each region…that going with a broad 25% is a good guide for each region.”

Collins also pointed out that and areas that fall short of targets would jumpstart a conversation about housing bottlenecks like planning & zoning, local land use, funding restrictions. She believes this would provide more information for “strong public policy discussions.”

Chairman Stevens agrees they need to better discussions and admitted “this is hard… simply snapping one’s fingers and say we are going to have this many units… it’s better to target something like that rather than say oh we will do whatever we can…”

Legislative Counsel then walked through the latest draft for the Committee. The updates to the bill include:

  1. Shifted responsibility for oversight of the targets (Statewide Housing Needs Assessment) to the Department of Housing and Community Development instead of specifying the Housing Division specifically.
  2. Provides the Department with the discretion to determine timelines and annual goals to achieve the statewide or regional housing targets.

Representative Chesnut-Tangerman asked for clarity around the basis of “regional targets” and whether that was by county? Legislative Counsel responded that it is based on the RPCs, which are regional and are consistent with Act 47 language. However, Collins pointed out that the federal funding for these Housing Needs Assessments are county-based so when they are rolling these targets up to the RPC level they need to disassociate the towns and then aggregate back up to the regional level because RPC’s often don’t follow county lines.

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