Housing Opportunities for Everyone (S.100) - Overview

S.100 was introduced by the Senate Economic Development Committee in February. After moderate revisions, the bill was passed by both the House and Senate and delivered to the Governor on May 30th, 2023.

The bill intends to address the state's housing crisis by cracking down on municipal zoning that is seen as exclusionary and by making significant investments in low-income housing stock. Critics question the effectiveness of the bill without significant revisions to the Act 250 land use regulations to make development easier.

 

Summary:

  • A municipality may only require one parking space per dwelling unit in areas served by municipal sewer and water infrastructure, 1.5 parking spaces for duplexes and multiunit dwellings in areas not served by sewer and water and in areas located more than one-quarter mile away from public parking.

  • A municipal bylaw may require a single-family dwelling with an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to be subject to the same regulations required for a single-family dwelling without an accessory dwelling unit (municipalities are prohibited from regulating ADU's under separate criteria than single-family homes).

  • In areas served by municipal sewer and water infrastructure that allow residential development, bylaws may for building dimensional standards must allow five or more dwelling units per acre for residential use, and density standards for multiunit dwellings cannot be more restrictive than those required for single-family dwellings.

  • Bylaw changes may be appealed to the administrative officer if the bylaw imposes unreasonable or inappropriate restrictions, or if the action will have a physical or environmental impact.

  • A determination by an appropriate municipal panel that a residential development will not result in an undue adverse effect on the character of the area affected shall not be subject to appeal if the development is within a designated downtown development district, designated growth center, designated Vermont neighborhood, or designated neighborhood development area (this is often a complaint used by neighbors that a project does not "fit the character" of an area).

  • Priority Housing Projects with 25 or fewer units will receive an exception from the Act 250 process if they are constructed in an appropriate downtown or village center with municipal zoning. This provision sunsets in 2029.
  • Provides permission to electric distribution utilities to rebuild existing electrical distribution lines in an existing corridor, road, or State or town road right-of-way without a permit. This work has to be planned by January 2024 and any projects leveraged by this provision my be reported to legislators. This provision was in response to a request from Green Mountain Power which wants to move some of their distribution lines closer to roadways.

  • Clarity is added that the Vermont Building Energy Code overrides any municipal energy codes, even though municipalities with building departments handle some aspects of review and inspection. The Department of Public Safety is responsible for development, administration, and enforcement of building codes. However, the bill does call for an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the Residential Building Energy Codes (RBES) and the Commercial Building Energy Codes (CBES), and provide recommendations for how the building energy codes interact with the fire and building safety codes. They are also seeking recommendations to better enforce these codes.

  • Creates the Mobile Home Task Force, which is comprised of legislators and a member from the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Task Force is tasked with studying the current landscape for mobile homes and mobile home parks, including the following issues: the status of mobile homes and mobile home parks within Vermont's housing portfolio, the condition and needs for mobile home park infrastructure, etc.

  • The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) will provide grants to first generation homebuyers. The grants will be awarded to applicants who self-attest that they are a first generation homebuyer.

  • VHFA will adopt guidelines for first-generation homebuyers and provide financial support for home repair, home improvement, housing transition, park infrastructure, legal assistance, and technical assistance.

  • VHFA will establish a Middle-Income Homeownership Development Program to provide subsidies for new construction or acquisition and substantial rehabilitation of affordable owner-occupied housing for purchase by income-eligible homebuyers.

  • VHFA is authorized to create a Rental Housing Revolving Loan Program to provide subsidized loans for rental housing developments that serve middle-income households.

  • Enhanced subsidies may be provided for projects for that meet one or more of the following criteria: five percent or more of the total funding sourced from an employer, five percent or more from a municipal or regional housing fund, and small scale.

  • The Department of Housing and Community Development will design and implement the Vermont Rental Housing Improvement Program, which awards grants and forgivable loans to private landlords to renovate non-code compliant rental housing units.

  • In fiscal year 2024, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) will receive additional funding from the General Fund to provide affordable mixed-income rental housing and homeownership units, improvements to manufactured homes and communities, recovery residences, and housing for farm workers and refugees.

  • In fiscal year 2024, Vermont Legal Aid will create and administer a two-year Tenant Representation Pilot Program to provide full representation to eligible and consenting tenants in Lamoille and Windsor counties who have been served with a summons and complaint for eviction.

  • The Vermont State Housing Authority will create and administer a Rent Arrears Assistance Fund to provide funds to prevent eviction in cases involving nonpayment of rent from residential rental units.

  • Reports:

    • The Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies shall report on statutory recommendations to better integrate and implement municipal, regional, and State plans, policies, and investments by focusing on regional future land use maps. This report is due in December 2023.

    • The Planning and Development Agencies are directed to consider consider possible new methods of public engagement that promote equity and expand opportunity for meaningful participation by impacted communities in the decisions affecting their physical and social environment.

    • A report is to be to legislators on necessary updates to the Act 250 program, including how to transition to a system in which Act 250 jurisdiction is based on location.

The Good:

  • Addresses parking and lot size issues that are often weaponized by NIMBY's during the local zoning process.
  • Limits local zoning appeals based on the "character" of an area.
  • Calls for a review of building energy codes and accompanying oversight.
  • Funds two separate middle-income homeowner programs.
  • Funds a middle income renter program.

The Bad:

  • Largely leaves Act 250 untouched except for the narrow Priority Housing Project exemption, which expires in 2029.
  • Overrules local control in many instances.
  • Plays to landlord stereotypes and provides funding to renters for legal representation without offering the same benefit to landlords. Expert testimony indicated that landlords are often LESS likely to have legal representation (even before this funding) than a tenant.

 

CFV coverage on S.100

Read the Bill

More bill summaries

 


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