In ski towns, second homes are on the rise, but affordable accommodation is difficult

There is a housing crisis across the country, and it has worsened in many parts of Vermont as well.

The audio for this story will be posted.

But the situation is particularly dire in ski resorts, where property values ​​are skyrocketing and new homes are being built, while affordable housing is increasingly difficult to find.

Earlier this year, Anna Roth hired a group of new teachers at Twin Valley Middle High School in Whitingham, of which she is the principal.

She was pretty excited about the new staff and thought everything was in place until she heard from one of her new hires.

No more RVPs: Housing options for middle-income Vermonters worsen during pandemic

“This particular teacher has taken on the job and is from the south,” she said one day recently, as she prepared for the new school year. “And so [he] came here to see places and emailed me before he left and said, “I’m not sure I can find a place. I’ll keep looking, but do you have any suggestions? “

Roth’s school serves the Deerfield Valley. Which is near Mount Snow and three other ski mountains. The region is fueled by a year-round tourist economy.

Housing was tight here before the pandemic.

The neighboring city of Wilmington did an analysis a few years ago which found that over 60% of its homes are vacant part of the year and used seasonally.

And because the area is close to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York City, many people have escaped north and purchased properties in the area over the past year.

Howard Weiss Tisman

Wilmington Planning Commission chairperson Meg Staloff said the proposed changes to the city’s zoning bylaws will hopefully result in more senior housing in the city. The city will hold its first public hearings on the code later this month.

Roth says five houses were recently sold on his street in Wilmington and each went to a second home owner.

“It’s no secret that there isn’t a lot of housing here,” Roth said. “Especially with the real estate boom that happened last year. Houses that in the past were rentals for locals, these people choose to do AirBnB. I contacted two people I know who have rentals and they told me they are heading to AirBnB.

Short-term rentals in the Deerfield Valley have increased by over 500% since 2016.

And so for teachers, service workers and manual workers in the Deerfield Valley, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a place to live.

But for people involved in real estate and home building, it’s a very different story.

Ryan Holton’s family have been building new homes in the valley for decades.

And he says he’s never seen him so busy.

“It’s booming, yeah. Definitely busy, ”said Holton, while taking a break at a job site in Wilmington. “I mean, we saw a big wave with, you know, sort of people trying to escape towns and come here and build houses. And I think for them they looked at the housing market first. After they bought all the houses, they bought all the land. So we’re actually booking until 2024 at this point, which is pretty extraordinary. So yes, it’s booming.

More from RVPs: Audio Postcard: How to Sell a Home During a Pandemic

Post-COVID housing boom in ski towns has further highlighted the disparity in new home construction across the state

Vermont already has the second highest rate of seasonal housing in the country, and according to a recent statewide housing report, that number has been increasing every year in recent times.

But the same report found that outside of Chittenden County, owner-occupied new construction is virtually at a standstill.

The report states that if the current trend continues, only about half of the needs will be met for people who want to buy a new home.

The secondary owners are part of the Deerfield Valley community. They sit on volunteer boards, contribute to local causes, and spend their money in restaurants and stores.

And no one here will complain too much about this new real estate money pouring into the local economy.

But Gretchen Havreluk, an economic consultant working with the city of Wilmington, says something has to give.

“It’s a crisis. We have to fix this problem, ”she said.

“The circle of you know, the workforce, the housing, the economy, you know, like it’s all in a circle. The key element was really the accommodation. You know, like, when you think about it, what comes first? ”

Gretchen Havreluk, Economic Consultant for Wilmington

Havreluk says small towns like Wilmington lack large affordable housing projects that end up being built in nearby towns like Bennington or Brattleboro, where the population is larger.

And she says that while short-term rentals like AirBnB attract tourists, the local economy cannot thrive if there is no one to teach in schools, serve in restaurants, or mow lawns.

“The circle of you know, the workforce, the housing, the economy, you know, it’s all in a circle,” Havreluk said. “The key thing was really the accommodation. You know, like, when you think about it, what comes first? “

More RVPs: The New “Country of Calling?” City Buyers Consider Vermont Property As COVID Sanctuary

The city of Wilmington is set to hold public meetings to present proposed changes to its zoning code, which would facilitate the development of senior housing in the city center.

Wilmington Planning Commission chairperson Meg Staloff said that for a very long time cities like Wilmington have focused on maintaining their downtown charm and keeping low and moderate income housing far away. from Main Street.

She said the housing crisis is forcing cities to find ways to encourage development.

“So we’re not necessarily talking about sprawl, but we’re saying, can we fit this into our community in a way that makes sense? Staloff said. “And so, I think part of it is because we focused so much on anti-sprawl, that we created these vibrant village centers, but now we have to integrate housing inside or just there. outside of those centers if that’s what people want.

The idea, she says, is that older people who live in the countryside might want to move to cities, freeing up properties for new families to move in.

Their first hearing for the new zoning bylaws is later this month.

Do you have questions, comments or advice? Drop us a line or contact reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman @hweisstisman.

Comments are closed.