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June 25, 2019

Woodstock organization wants moderate incomes in pricey town

Woodstock organization wants moderate incomes in pricey town

By Katy Savage

A Woodstock organization is trying to get more residents in the expensive town by helping people buy homes.

With an anonymous $500,000 grant, the Woodstock Community Trust is buying homes, fixing them and selling them at a reduced rate.

Jill Davies, a Woodstock Select Board member who spearheaded the idea in December 2018, said she wants to buy and sell two homes a year to families with moderate income levels. She hopes the effort will support people who live and work in Woodstock.

“You see how far teachers are having to drive to work,” Davies said. “You find out that the police you employ can’t afford to live in town. The local businesses can’t find anybody to work for them.”

A report called “Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing,” found Vermont has the sixth largest affordability gap for renters in the nation (see related story, page 6). In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the state, renters need to earn $47,000 annually, the report found. Meanwhile, U.S. Census data shows about 52 percent of Woodstock homes are owned by second homeowners.

“Woodstock is one of those communities where getting to be a first-time home buyer is really difficult given the high cost of housing there,” said Twin Pines Housing Trust Executive Director Andrew Winter. “I think the Woodstock Community Trust recognized that issue.”

Twin Pines is partnering with the Woodstock Community Trust to oversee the application process for homebuyers. The Woodstock trust purchased its first home for $385,000 in March. The three-bedroom, two bathroom home on Maple Street dates back to 1903 and is assessed at $399,000 after the trust put about $15,000 of renovations into it. The Woodstock trust is listing the home at a 35 percent discount, for $259,000.

Davies, who moved to Vermont from Connecticut about 10 years ago, is a board member of the Ottauquechee Health Foundation and Sustainable Woodstock in addition to being a member of the Select Board.

“I started to realize what was happening in our community,” Davies said. Davies modeled Woodstock’s housing program on a similar program in Martha’s Vineyard.

“I talked to various people who were doing housing projects,” Davies said. “In this country, low income people have a number of different ways of getting (help). I couldn’t find any programs at all that help moderate income people.”

This isn’t the first time a group from Woodstock has sought income diversity in town.Safford Commons, the controversial affordable housing facility, was built in Woodstock in 2015, after about a decade of court battles from concerned abutters.

Winter, who manages Safford Commons as well, said he’s received two applications for the Woodstock home so far.  Applications are due June 28 and ask about family size and income. Applicants are required to be prequalified for a mortgage and a family of four must have an income at or under $130,000.

“This is an expansion of our efforts to provide home ownership opportunities,” Winter said. “Ideally (we’re looking for) somebody who’s excited to be living in Woodstock – somebody who is able to work in Woodstock and raise a family in Woodstock.”

Davies is looking for fundraising opportunities before the organization purchases its next home.

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