I never wanted to be from Vermont. For 15 years of my childhood I spent nearly every minute in Vermont thinking about how to leave. Now that I go to college an ocean away from my home in Warren, my appreciation and love for the Mad River Valley has exponentially increased. I have a difficult time explaining my love for The Valley to classmates and friends who are often bewildered and horrified to learn I live in a town with a population under 2,000. Often these friends are from the places I used to wish to call home: New York City and London to name a few.
I’ve spent more uninterrupted time home in the past year than I have in the past four, and my love for Warren and the Mad River Valley only continues to expand. Really though, my appreciation has grown for the people that call The Valley home. People like Wendell Anderson who I walk my dog with while learning the intricacies of running an art gallery, as well as the fine details of film photography. People like John Connell who upon learning I had an inkling of desire to learn woodworking immediately brought me into his shop and helped me complete my first project (a rudimentary toolbox that I am immensely proud of.)
While this might be beginning to sound like a love letter to The Valley, it’s really an exposition of how important and formative the members of The Valley are to young people like myself returning home. What makes the Mad River Valley special is the unlikely and diverse cast of characters who call our neck of the woods home. A large part of what affords such a diverse group of individuals to live here is investing and ensuring a range of housing options that are affordable across the board.
In an effort to keep our Valley as eclectic and interesting as it has always been, I reached out to Kaziah Haviland, a member of the Mad River Valley Housing coalition, who shared some data and information with me. It is clear that housing in the Mad River Valley is becoming increasingly unaffordable. In 2020, a two-person household would need to earn nearly 150% of the median income for this area just to afford a home here. In an effort to retain socioeconomic diversity, the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition is working with the Mad River Planning District and the three town governments to increase safe, secure and affordable housing with projects such as the accessory dwelling unit program (ADUP.) With the help of construction grants up to $10,000 as well as free professional assistance throughout the process, the housing coalition is hoping to attract even more homeowners to join the program.
Initially, I had planned on writing this piece on behalf of the MRVHC, but ultimately, I write it on behalf of a young person who loves his hometown. Tourism has and will continue to be a vital part of The Valley, but the reason those tourists love it here so much is because we have established a community of creative, politically active (look no further than the Warren Fourth of July Parade for reference), and fiercely loving and loyal people. With this in mind, I ask and implore you to learn more about the efforts to increase affordable housing in our Valley.
Raddock lives in Warren.