The Mad River Valley Housing Coalition (MRVHC) has requested ARPA funds from Fayston and Waitsfield to cover the cost of a full-time executive director for a period of two years. Those towns have not yet committed to allocating those funds. This week, the MRVHC went before the Warren Select Board to request the same.
MRVHC is requesting approximately $42,500 from Fayston, $54,100 from Waitsfield and $53,400 from Warren in ARPA funds, proportionate to each town, to fund the position. Currently, Michelle Leibowitz is serving as part-time executive director of the MRVHC, which she began in January. The current funding for her position expires in June. Leibowitz has more than 20 years of experience working in the housing field, most recently in Massachusetts. She has been a second-home owner in The Valley for almost 20 years and relocated to Warren full-time during the pandemic.
“We believe the housing crisis is a Valley-wide issue,” said MRVHC member Mac Rood. “We need a full-time person whose job it is to figure out how we can solve this problem. [Michelle’s] super qualified for this job. Our request is to fund her for two years while we figure out a stable funding mechanism [for the position].”
The Fayston and Waitsfield select boards had asked whether ARPA funds are the appropriate mechanism to fund the position. Devin Klein Corrigan of the Warren Select Board asked the same. “I agree it needs a director. I’m not sure the use of ARPA funds for a position that should be funded anyway is the best use. We all want to find a sustainable way to address affordable and sustainable housing,” she said.
“I think this board is all on board with the idea that things need to be done and time is of the essence,” said vice chair Andy Cunningham. “It’s affecting all of us,” chair Luke Youmell agreed.
“We’re hoping Warren can be a leader here,” Rood said.
The select board decided to hold a tri-town meeting this summer between Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston to discuss how to fund the MRVHC executive director position. Leibowitz stressed that this funding should be secured as soon as possible in order to continue the work she and the MRVHC have been doing to address the housing crisis in The Valley.