For decades, we’ve known and talked about the fact that homes in the Upper Valley are too few and too expensive for people’s needs. The pandemic has worsened the problem. A recent VPR report cited research finding Vermont to have the least affordable housing market of any state in the country, and a WMUR report found New Hampshire to have experienced a 23% increase in the median sales price of single-family homes has risen nearly since January 2020. More and more people are experiencing homelessness, living in unsafe homes, paying too much of their income for their housing, or are forced to settle far from jobs and services.

What can be done, by whom, to address this? Answering that multi-pronged question is the focus of the Vital Communities Housing Solutions Breakfast, Friday, June 11, 7:30 to 9 am, on Zoom!

REGISTER HERE!

At the breakfast, you will:

  • Join residents, employers, officials, and other leaders 
  • Highlight solutions in progress around us. 
  • Learn about Keystothevalley.com, an integrated framework of dozens of strategies and tools to help us meet this regional challenge.

“This is a time of opportunity to meet our shared housing challenge,” said Mike Kiess, Vital Communities’ Workforce Housing Coordinator. “I think everyone is aware of the impacts of the shortage of places to live. As we emerge from the pandemic, there is community will and federal funding to support us in changing our local housing systems and markets so they produce the results we want for ourselves and our communities.”

The virtual breakfast is part of the ongoing effort by Vital Communities and its partners to inspire Upper Valley people of all professions and life situations to provide more homes in our region for the benefit of themselves and their communities. The launch of the new Keys to the Valley website will be followed up starting this fall with mini-expositions on housing solutions in communities throughout the Upper Valley.

“Our housing breakfasts have a tradition of bringing together people who care about housing and can do something about it, creating a sense of community and collaboration, said Kiess. “This year we are purposefully widening that group to include not just folks who could launch larger-scale projects but individuals who might be able to add one or two new homes to their community through various means. We hope they’ll come to the breakfast and hear about ideas and projects that are a good fit for their communities. We look forward to staying engaged and supporting creative solutions in this effort’s next phase.”

Keys explores the “hows” and “whys” of housing solutions ranging from large-scale development to strategies that individuals can adopt, such as adding a unit to their home, rehabbing a rental unit, or sharing the home of an elder.

Projects and presenters at the breakfast are:

  • Accessory dwelling units (ADU) partnership – Tyler Maas, VT State Housing Authority: ADUs are a great way for residents to create more places to live. This pilot project provides help with pre-construction design and securing of finances, permitting and compliance, contractor procurement and project management, and finally, tenant selection and lease up procedures.
  • Homeshare – Deanna Jones, Thompson Senior Center, Woodstock, VT: Homesharing is two or more unrelated persons sharing a home. It can be that simple, and it can meet a lot of our individual needs.
  • Mixed-Use Zoning -Lori Hirshfield and Matt Osborn, Hartford, VT: Mixed-use will allow one- and two-family homes, commercial businesses and multi-unit homes in places that have been limited to parking and stores.
  • Capital for Affordability – Nancy Owens, Evernorth: Our region has places with the water, sewer, and transportation for multi-unit buildings. With some additional “patient” capital from employers, builders are able to create places affordable to employees with lower incomes.
  • Rental Rehabilitation – Paul Martorano, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust: The Re-Housing Recovery Program offered grants up to $30,000 per unit for repairs needed to bring vacant rental units up to Vermont Rental Housing Health Code guidelines. More than 60 units were added in our communities in just a few months.
  • Keys to the Valley – Kevin Geiger, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission

More About Keys to the Valley

Keys to the Valley is a joint project of three planning commissions – the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, and Mount Ascutney Regional Commission. It provides a framework for integrated action on housing by all stakeholders, including residents, towns, legislators, non-profits, employers, and developers. Keys includes goals and the tools to achieve them, woven together to meet individual and shared needs for home and community. The approach is not limited to a particular geography, town size, or politics, and can work all around our state, and for our neighbors. Below, a graphic from Keys shows the potential for adding homes along  a single stretch of road in Chester, Vermont, while not developing more land or extending utility services or roads – thus creating only minimal additional costs for the town.