On December 28, 2022

Housing crisis: Killington Forward plan aims to address need at all levels

Once the foliage photos started flooding the Killington Locals+ page on Facebook this fall, so did the queries for seasonal housing. Securing one of the approximately 1,800 jobs on the mountain isn’t the challenge. Finding a place to rest one’s head is the chore.

While Killington Resort, with the recent purchase of the Hillside Inn and Chalet Killington, is one of the largest employee housing providers in the state of Vermont, it makes only a dent in the need. As families flocked to the area to re-settle during the pandemic and Killington Resort expands its year-round offerings, the squeeze on the housing market is considerable.

The town of Killington is looking to the Killington Forward project to relieve the pressure in market-rate, workforce and affordable housing.

“During the pandemic, Vermont was seen as a safe destination. We saw a large influx of buyers from out-of-state; these buyers drove demand up and helped to lower inventory, thus creating higher prices,” reflected Nathan Mastroeni, regional manager for greater Vermont at Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty. He continued, “As the for-sale homes and condos were purchased, the number of long-term rentals was being lowered at the same time. Before the pandemic, it was possible for a mountain employee working and living in Killington to rent year-round. As sales continued and owners renting their homes learned of the high sale prices they could get, many moved to sell their properties. This led to a lowering of the available rentals in town.”

The graph (above) shows that the third quarter of 2022 has the fewest homes listed for sale in the past three years.

Lyle Jepson, executive director at the Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region said, “We need workforce housing, in order to grow our businesses and to keep our businesses strong. Employers, from your small retailer to General Electric, are struggling to find employees. One of the things those employees love is they love Vermont, and they love our quality of life. But they can’t find a place to live.”

Sherry Sousa, superintendent of Windsor Central Supervisory Union, concured. “If you are a brand new teacher just starting out, that salary does not allow you to afford a rental property in Killington. I have a brand new pre-K teacher who looked far and wide to find housing with her partner that she could afford. And she couldn’t find anything in Killington. So she’s having to commute and live in another town.”

Sousa went on to describe working with local real estate agent to give teachers a leg up on the rental process due to their reliable teacher contracts, and pre-vetted background checks. “We have to be creative, the teacher shortage is extreme,” she said.

The Killington Forward project, if passed by residents on Town Meeting Day, will eventually add 1,500 units of year-round housing stock at the new Six Peaks Village, but will also lay the groundwork for market-rate, workforce, and affordable housing through the water and road infrastructure upgrades.

Stephanie Clarke, vice president at White & Burke, and real estate advisor to the Killington Forward project said, “Without access to safe and reliable municipal water, properties along Killington Road will remain either under-developed or undeveloped. Without the burden of having to drill a well or install a mitigation system to treat the contaminated water, those lots have a higher likelihood of being redeveloped with housing or a mixed-use.”

“There are lots within the Killington Road corridor that would be well-suited for a mix of both affordable housing and workforce housing at price points affordable to people living and working and in the general Killington area,” Clarke continued. “Affordable housing projects built by non-profit developers will only be located at sites with appropriate zoning, and municipal water and sewer.”

(The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines households who spend more than 30% of income on housing costs to be housing cost burdened.) The town of Killington is working to create this water system and reconstruct Killington Road through the Killington Forward initiative, set to break ground in Summer 2023. Water for the municipal water system will be pumped from wells on Route 4, brought up the mountain to storage, distributed through the future Six Peaks Killington Village and down Killington Road.

Jepson said, “The coalition that we’re working with, including housing folks from across the region, aim to facilitate between 150 and 200 more housing units online three years from now. I would love to think that we could do that in Rutland City, and that Killington could do another 150, maybe Brandon could do 25, and Fair Haven could add 30. We need to do it everywhere to help our entire county prosper. The businesses in Killington, the town of Killington, and the resort are working as a triumvirate. They are working very closely and well together. They recognize that the benefit for one will be the benefit for all.”

Sousa added, “We are working to be a thriving and healthy district. We want the young families to come here. You know, we’re in the process of developing a new facility for our middle school and high school. So, we need to assure prospective families we have the infrastructure in place for them to come in. So, when Killington talks about adding more rental property, absolutely, we will benefit as a district.”

The Killington Forward project is slated to add housing by way of the Six Peaks Village and create opportunity for development throughout the area.

There are many sources of funding so that these improvements will not raise the Killington tax rate, including tax increment financing (TIF), a major financing mechanism to fund the beginning of the effort, using Six Peaks Killington’s new taxes to finance the bonds. The town also received $6 million in federal and state grants and the town is seeking more.  Two years of financial planning, design, and creative partnerships lay the groundwork for the future.

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