A quick update on Upper Valley housing from our Workforce Housing Coordinator, Mike Kiess:
Support for people experiencing homeless and housing insecurity has been expanded on both sides of the river. In Vermont, the state has provided vouchers for 130 people without housing to stay in hotels. Thanks to the Super 8, South on Five, White River Junction Inn, and Comfort Inn for being partners in this effort. At the same time, organizations like the Upper Valley Haven that help with homelessness and housing insecurity are expanding services and outreach. Another example is LISTEN Community Services, which is providing free meals to those sheltering in White River Junction.
There is concern moving forward that economic disruption from the pandemic will increase homelessness and housing insecurity. NH and VT advocacy groups are asking Concord and Montpelier to allocate CARES funds to continue expanded shelter and service support. Local organizations, such as Continuum of Care and Upper Valley Strong’s housing committee, are also working towards long term solutions. The goal is to help connect community members with available housing, possibly by working out deals with landlords or providing rent assistance.
It is still too early to predict what the consequences for housing and housing finance markets will be. While a rise in joblessness and a fall in incomes is expected to hurt the housing market, demand among those who live in urban areas for “get away” locations could cause prices to rise. March real estate data did not show any decrease in transactions, which had started the year on a strong note. April data shows that prices have risen and supply has diminished as potential sellers are waiting to enter the market.
Going forward, housing affordability and availability is expected to remain a challenge, and the pandemic may be shifting our solutions. It does not seem that development costs will be reduced by the economic disruption, while public and business investor development funds are likely to be impacted. At the same time, there seems to be increased openness to creative partnerships for incremental creation of workforce housing through smaller projects and renovations.