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Governor Phil Scott is joined by legislators to announce bill addressing housing crisis

Governor Phil Scott is joined by legislators to discuss a bill to address Vermont's housing shortage
Vermont Governor's office
Governor Phil Scott is joined by legislators to discuss a bill to address Vermont's housing shortage

One of the biggest issues Vermont leaders are attempting to address is a lack of housing across the state. Republican Governor Phil Scott focused his weekly briefing Wednesday on the issue, inviting a tri-partisan group of legislators to discuss a bill being introduced to address the issue.

Governor Scott opened his weekly briefing noting that in his State of the State address he talked about Vermont’s housing shortage and the urgent need to make it faster, easier and less expensive to rehabilitate units. Scott said significant investments to expand housing over the past few years is helping, but it’s not enough to meet demand.

“Right now, due in part to our antiquated regulatory system, it takes far too long and costs far too much to build," Scott said. "We hear from people of all political backgrounds about the need to make it easier to build which is why I'm proud to stand here with you today with a tri-partisan group of lawmakers who, in partnership with my team, have worked on packages that could really make a difference. Because housing is about more than just housing. It's about community revitalization, workforce, affordability, equity, health, safety, and much, much more. This session we can put politics aside to create and restore the housing we so desperately need right now.”

Franklin District Republican Lisa Hango is co-lead sponsor of a billthat makes strategic investments in Vermont’s communities. She said political ideologies were put aside to craft it.

“This legislation touches on something that is important to each of our constituencies: permitting reform, emergency housing, creating new units and providing opportunity for all Vermonters to have access to housing across all regions of our state.”

A stumbling block to new development has been the state’s decades-old land use zoning law. Co-sponsor Orleans district Democrat Katherine Sims says the new bill addresses those challenges.

“Vermont's landmark Act 250 law has been instrumental in sustaining the Vermont we love, balancing the preservation of our unique landscape with the economic and development needs of our communities," said Sims. "I don't think any of us want to see more sprawl. We don't want houses in the middle of farm fields or huge single-family homes on top of mountains. We also know that we haven't been building housing at the rate that we need to keep up with demand. And so if we want more housing in the right places, rehabbing existing buildings and building new infill development in our walkable downtowns and villages that are served by water and sewer, we need a balanced approach to land use regulation. While we protect some places, we also need to make it easier to develop in others. And this is exactly what this bill does.”

Members of the Vermont Senate joined House members to acknowledge the need for immediate action. Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock, a Franklin District Republican, said the housing crisis is acute and the state has to stop nibbling around the edges.

“In order to solve almost every problem we have, whether it be health care costs, education, Vermont's tax burden and more, we need to attract and retain more working Vermonters," said Brock. "And that will not be possible until we restore a healthy housing balance in the housing market with more units and at reasonable prices. And the only way we can do that is to make it easier, faster and cheaper to build the housing that we need. Chair (Kesha) Ram Hinsdale and the rest of the Senate Economic Development Committee have committed to working with our counterparts in the House to focus on these very issues. Action can't wait and bold regulatory reform is needed now more than ever.”

The bill was formally introduced on Wednesday and referred to the Committee on Environment and Energy.

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