The Senate Economic Development Committee heard from more experts on Friday regarding their Omnibus Housing Bill.
- Permitting takes too long and is duplicative.
- The housing market is changing.
- Vermonters support expanding population and housing.
Evan Langfeldt (President, O’brien Brothers) shared that trade labor is becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive. Tradespeople cannot find homes they can afford, pushing them to live farther away and into longer commutes. He highlighted that it takes 38 months to complete permitting in most cases because state and local permitting is on a dual track system that is interdependent.
He sketched out a potential timeline for a project:
- Project planning – January 2020
- Preliminary plat submission – August 2020
- Preliminary plat issued – August 2021
- Final plat submission – April 2022
- Final plat issued – December 2022
- Act 250 submission – September 2022
- Act 250 issued – Still Pending
The mix of out-of-state purchasers they have seen has changed dramatically. From 2018 – 2019 it was about 12% from outside Vermont. Between 2020 – 2023 that number increased to 42%. He pointed to an article that appeared in the St. Albans Messenger (1/24/2023) saying that "the Vermont Housing Finance Agency has estimated Vermont will need to build 40,000 new housing unit by 2030 to meet our needs. Today, we’re averaging about 400 new homes a year."
He believes the state should adopt an ‘all of the above' strategy. We should be increasing housing density along with upgrades to water & sewer infrastructure, transportation, and fiber optic broadband. In addition, we should streamline the permitting process to remove redundancies and adopt climate resilient technology and building techniques. We also need "courage in the face of NIMBY-ism," according to Langfeldt.
Kevin Chu (Executive Director, Vermont Futures Project) posed the question of how we can use data to support the evolution of Vermont's economy towards a thriving future full of opportunity for all. His organization uses data to bring people from different perspectives together for productive discourse aligned towards common goals and values. Vermont needs more people and more people need Vermont, he stated.
He posed the question about what would happen if every unemployed person in Vermont found a job. There are 23,000 and 8,000 job seekers, which mean even if every worker found a job there would still be 15,000 remaining jobs unfilled.
The largest age cohort in the state is over 55 years-old, meaning that our workforce challenges are likely to get worse. One key question is whether the Covid bump will be permanent. Demand for Vermont housing remains high and supply remains low, which means that (on top of inflation) prices are also staying high.
He argues that the housing shortage has bene decades in the making. Over a quarter of all housing units in the state were constructed in 1939 or earlier while less than 0.5% of the current housing stock has been built since 2014.
They did a poll of Vermonters, asking if they were supportive of growing the state's population in order to strengthen our workforce:
- Yes - 49%
- No - 38%
- Unsure - 13%