On June 7, 2023

Governor signs housing crisis bill

 

Gov. Phil Scott signed S.100 – known as the Housing Opportunities Made for Everyone or HOME Act – on June 5, which will enable more significant progress addressing Vermont’s housing shortage.

 “This bill represents what we can get done when we all come to the table, work through our differences, and reach compromise to the benefit of all Vermonters, especially our most vulnerable and marginalized,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I want to thank the committees of jurisdiction for their efforts on this bill and for staying at the table until the last days of the session to get the bill over the finish line. We will continue to focus on  turning the tide of this housing crisis. More important work lies ahead, but this bill is a great start.”

 The HOME Act modernizes local zoning and land use regulations by allowing higher density development in areas with sewer and water service, which will create more housing opportunities and affordable homes for more Vermonters.

 Key provisions of S.100 include:

Affordable and Inclusive Housing Expansion: The bill creates resources to support the construction and rehabilitation of safe and affordable housing units, prioritizing the needs of low-income individuals, families, and vulnerable populations while expanding successful programs like the Vermont Housing Improvement Program (VHIP). S.100 also promotes inclusive and accessible housing options by updating accessibility standards in new construction and renovations.

Land Use Regulations: The bill lowers barriers to housing development in smart growth areas without compromising environmental protections. It aligns state and local land use policy to enable more homes to be built in State designated centers. This bill enables Act 250 exemptions for affordable housing in all the designated centers, including villages.

Municipal Zoning Reforms: The bill standardizes municipal zoning in residential districts served by water and sewer by lowering parking thresholds, increasing building and lot standards and permitting multiunit dwellings and shelters to be built, supporting more housing options for both low- and middle-income Vermonters (effective December 2024).

The bill includes additional provisions and directs funding to further address the needs of renters and homeowners, which will be finalized with the state fiscal year 2024 budget.

 “As I’ve said before, we can’t build housing in the clouds,” said Department of Housing and Community Development Commissioner Josh Hanford. “This bill creates opportunities to create new and more dense housing in the places we want it, rehab previously offline units, and reform our land and zoning laws all of which will begin to address this housing crisis. We are thankful to all our local, regional, and state partners along with the legislature for reaching this compromise.” 

This legislation is the result of a months-long collaboration and negotiation led by legislators and supported by the Scott administration, municipal leaders and planners, environmental organizations, homebuilders and more.

 “Vermonters have never been more unified in asking us to prioritize permanent, affordable housing,” said Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden). “They can be proud that we set aside our differences in Montpelier and forged an uncommon alliance to deliver historic reforms. Creating a pathway to homeownership should not be partisan, and what we accomplished put Vermont families ahead of political gridlock, so we can see smart, compassionate growth in all corners of the state.” 

“This is an issue that, directly or indirectly, affects all Vermonters,” said Rep. Seth Bongartz (D-Bennington-4). “It is rewarding that the Administration and the Legislature were able to come together, work shoulder-to-shoulder, and get something this important done for the people of Vermont.”

 “We are at a critical moment on the issue of housing, and I believe this bill will be an important step forward,” added Scott. “Given the depth of our housing crisis, we know there are more reforms needed to really turn the tide, particularly with Act 250. Since I became governor, I have pushed for needed changes, which the Legislature has yet to adopt. I will continue to pursue commonsense modernizations to make sure all Vermonters can afford a safe, decent home.”

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