July 23, 2014

Town assesses affordable housing

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Williston’s new Affordable Housing Task Force held its inaugural meeting last week, sitting down in the town’s planning and zoning office to look into the state of Williston’s affordable housing.

“This is an interesting and I hope a rewarding project to be a part of,” said Planning Director Ken Belliveau. “I think it’s certainly an important one here for the town.”

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said he has been interested in seeing more affordable housing come to Williston for a number of years.

“I’m very hopeful of what can come out of this,” he said.

Affordable housing was one of the main topics of discussion at the Selectboard’s annual retreat last summer. The board agreed to create a task force to examine the status of Williston’s affordable housing and evaluate the need for additional housing.

The group will eventually “develop a set of policy recommendations for how the town might support, stimulate and encourage the development of affordable housing,” according to the group’s charge, as outlined by the Selectboard.

To be considered affordable, annual housing costs cannot exceed 30 percent of the income of households earning the median income in Chittenden County and must be perpetually affordable.

The Selectboard hopes to have recommendations from the task force by the end of June, though Belliveau noted that the task force might need more time.

Although there are some incentives in place for affordable units, the town does not currently have any affordable housing requirements.

Maura Collins of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency—who presented housing information to the task force on Feb. 5—said that Williston, like much of the county, is sorely lacking in affordable units for the non-elderly, especially rental units. Williston renters are spending more on their housing than renters in the rest of Chittenden County and nearby towns of Essex and South Burlington, with a hefty 33 percent of Williston renters spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing.

The group is set to meet again on March 6 at 6:30 p.m.

—Stephanie Choate, Observer staff

 
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