The Mad River Valley Housing Coalition (MRVHC) coordinator Kaziah Haviland-Montgomery and MRVHC member/Warren Select Board member Bob Ackland presented a proposal for a three-town housing trust fund to the Waitsfield Select Board on September 13. Developing a plan for a Valley-wide trust fund was one of the to-do’s that came from a tri-town meeting of Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston select boards in November 2020. The task was proposed as a result of the Mad River Valley Housing Demand & Market Analysis Report by Doug Kennedy Advisors, which found that the Mad River Valley lacks safe, stable and affordable housing suitable to meet demand.
The MRVHC proposed the development of a three-town housing trust fund controlled by an up-to-nine-member board that would include a member from each select board, a primary resident from each town and three members of the MRVHC or other affordable housing organization. The fund’s objectives would be to promote access to affordable housing for income-eligible households in The Valley, increase homeownership opportunities for income-eligible primary residents (not second-home owners), and decrease financial obstacles to obtaining safe and secure housing. The MRVHC has talked to other housing coalitions and housing trust funds throughout the state to develop the proposal.
According to Haviland-Montgomery, the vacancy rate for rental properties in The Valley is less than 1% and the average home sale price in Waitsfield is $430,000, while 100% annual area median income (AMI) for a household of four in Washington County is $80,300.
“Those living at average or low-income are having trouble staying or moving to The Valley,” Haviland-Montgomery said.
Housing trust funds are flexible sources of funding that can be used for a variety of affordable housing activities. Typically, housing trust funds are administered by existing public offices, though can also be managed by a partner organization. The fund would be a public-private partnership that draws funding from philanthropic donations as well as developer fees, permit fees, a proposed one-cent property tax increase and short-term rental fees. The one-cent tax increase would raise $150,000/year, while a short-term rental fee would raise approximately $72,000/year.
Common eligible uses for housing trust funds include subsidies to organizations and individuals to develop affordable housing, including the purchase of land for affordable housing, down payments and closing costs for home ownership and rental security deposit assistance.
According to Haviland-Montgomery, “The greatest housing need, as determined by the MRV Housing Demand and Market Analysis, is for:
1) Rental units oriented toward households with a total household income between 60% AMI and 100% AMI (approximately $48,200-$80,300 for a family of four).
2) Homeownership opportunities for first-time home buyers with a total annual household income below 140% AMI (approximately $112,400 for a family of four).
3) Rental units for seniors, specifically those at a low to moderate income level.”
“We need millions to make a real dent but that’s not reality,” Bob Ackland said. “The problem’s not going away. The MRVHC really feels we need to do something. We need to get started.”
The MRVHC is seeking feedback from the select boards in Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston. Ackland presented the proposal to the Warren Select Board in July. The Waitsfield Select Board discussed whether there was time to take community feedback into consideration prior to a Town Meeting Day vote on the housing trust fund. MRVHC plans to host community meetings and discussions on the topic. “The community needs to be involved and really shape [the trust fund],” Haviland-Montgomery said. The housing coalition plans to discuss the proposal at the next tri-town select board meeting in November.