On February 15, 2024

Governor Scott pushes regulatory reform to make it easier, cheaper and faster to build housing

At the governor’s weekly press conference last Wednesday, Feb. 7, Gov. Phil Scott reiterated his call for the Legislature to prioritize regulatory reform to make it easier, less expensive, and faster to build housing the state desperately needs.

“On January 10, I stood here with a tripartisan group of lawmakers and stakeholders to outline good, solid proposals that had wide support, and I felt good about the odds of passing something meaningful. But one month into the session I’m not as confident as I was that day,” said Governor Scott. “It appears, in some committees, they’re moving in the opposite direction. Instead of prioritizing how to produce more homes, which would address all kinds of issues like workforce, healthcare, property taxes, education and more, some are looking to add to the regulatory burden and put us further behind.”

The governor called on lawmakers in both parties who know regulatory reform is needed to address our housing crisis to make their voices heard and cited some specific examples:

“For example, House Energy and Environment is currently moving forward with a bill that in my opinion would be an economic disaster. And Senate Natural’s S.213 looks similar, creating new definitions, significantly expanding requirements, and shifting responsibilities for certain types of land use regulation from Vermont municipalities to ANR that will put Vermonters in jeopardy of violating laws they don’t even know exist.”

“As proposed, H.687 would also dramatically expand Act 250 jurisdiction statewide,” he continued. “While it does include some Act 250 exemptions, they’re narrow, stringent, and geographically limited, making nearly the entire state subject to Act 250… As most of us know, we have a housing crisis in all of Vermont, not just in our cities,” Gov. Scott said. “Leaving rural Vermont out of our housing strategy is far from strategic, fair, or acceptable. And to be clear, I’m not proposing we build on our mountaintops, develop forest land, or create sprawl. Our housing package focuses on designated areas within rural communities.”

“As currently drafted, 
H.687 would render 
more than 90% of the
 state subject to automatic 
Act 250 jurisdiction,” 
the governor said.

To make his point, the governor showed the Legislature a couple of maps. The first showed a map of the state with color-coded areas for what currently triggers automatic Act 250 jurisdiction.Next he showed what would happen under the House proposal. Most of the state was highlighted.

“As you can see by the areas indicated in red, orange, and yellow, Act 250 would be automatically extended to over 90% of the state’s land area which would now be considered ‘critical resource areas’,” he said. “That means if you want to build a single-family home, or maybe even a garden shed, you’ll need to go through Act 250, which we know adds costs and time. Under the House proposal, Act 250 jurisdiction would also be triggered if a proposed project was set back more than 500 feet from an existing road or was part of a 4+ unit subdivision.

“Put another way, as currently drafted, H.687 would render more than 90% of the state subject to automatic Act 250 jurisdiction,” the governor said. For perspective, currently, less than 15% of the Vermont landscape falls under automatic Act 250 jurisdiction, he added.

“I want to be clear, I won’t accept a housing bill that fails to meet the moment. Taking one step forward and one step back won’t cut it. Taking two steps forwards and one back won’t cut it. We must jumpstart housing in all communities. Period… And I’m confident the vast majority of Vermonters agree with me. But I also think most legislators of both parties do, too. The folks back home elected you to solve problems, not create them.”

 

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