Valley towns find themselves in the enviable position of figuring out how to spend many hundred thousand dollars of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
While the federal government has not completed and issued full guidelines for how the money can spent, there are a few areas that are clear. Some of those are water, wastewater, stormwater infrastructure repairs, studies improvements, etc.
That bodes well for The Valley towns, Waitsfield in particular as it seeks a way to provide critical infrastructure (water and wastewater) that could make it easier to address the need for more housing and specifically more affordable housing.
Another area where ARPA funds can be spent is to address housing issues and affordable housing. That’s also good news for local towns and local businesses unable to find employees because there is no place for them to live.
Coincidentally, the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition is working to create a housing trust fund that could be used to help with down payments, incentivize developers, help with accessory dwelling units, help renters with first and last months’ rent (plus security deposits), help fund upgrades for energy efficiency and more.
The housing trust fund would benefit from philanthropy but also potentially through increasing the municipal tax in each of the three towns by a penny and requiring short-term rental owners to register and pay an annual fee.
While details are still being worked out on how to fund such a fund, it’s clear that this federal infusion of cash provides a way for towns to make a meaningful contribution. Waitsfield will receive $506, 081, Fayston will receive $397,571 and Warren will receive $499,505.
For years, local leaders have talked about taking affordable housing seriously and recently there’s been some significant work done to advance the ball down the field. The opportunity this federal windfall represents in terms of being able to make a meaningful and significant impact on funding the proposed housing truck fund cannot be overlooked.
With a collective pot of money this big, it is possible for each town to make a significant (equal or pro-rated by population) contribution.