MIDDLEBURY - Renting an apartment in Addison County and elsewhere in the Green MountainState continues to grow more difficult for the average Vermonter, according to a report released last week. The 2011 edition of the report, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Housing and Wages in Vermont," shows a modest two-bedroom apartment in Vermont costs an average of $990 a month, a 7 percent increase over the year before and a 58 percent increase since 2000. A renter would need to earn an hourly wage of at least $19.03, $39,595, annually, to afford this.
"Renting an apartment has been a challenge in Vermont for some time because of rising costs and a low vacancy rate. This report confirms it continues to grow more challenging, especially for those on the lower end of Vermont's income scale," according to Sarah Carpenter, executive director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), the report's publisher.
"Vermont's affordable rental scenario is poised to become even more challenging," Carpenter says. "Recent cuts to the federal budget could seriously reduce the state's limited affordable housing stock and severely hamper the millions of dollars of private investment in housing that is leveraged by those federal resources."
The situation is made graver by the state's aging housing stock. The report estimates Vermont could lose up to 500 affordable housing units due to their deteriorating condition or lack of available resources to preserve the housing when federal affordability contracts expire and owners have the option to sell. Recapitalization of these older assisted housing projects is critical.
"VHFA and the state's other housing organizations are committed to doing all we can to assure all Vermonters have a safe, affordable, decent place to live," Carpenter said, "whether rented or a home of their own."
The high cost of renting in Vermont
•Vermonters pay too much for housing, according to VHFA. This ranks Vermont the 17th worst state in the nation. But landlords say their high maintenance costs, taxes, rising fuel oil/utility costs, snow plowing services, etc., must be factored in.
•Median household income in Vermont was $52,000 in 2009, according to the most recent estimates available. Incomes remained essentially flat since the previous year.
•The median home price in Vermont was $195,000 in 2010, 3 percent higher than last year. This requires an annual income of $58,000 and at least $16,000 in downpayment and closing costs.
•Homelessness in Vermont continues to grow. On one day in January, the state's network of shelters and service providers counted over 2,500 people who were homeless.
•Prices of newly constructed houses and condominiums remained far out of reach of the median Vermont household. The median price of a newly constructed home was $290,000 in 2010.
• Interest rates for homeownership remained very low through 2010, but fees remained high and buyers needed larger down payments. Closing costs in Vermont increased 37 percent between 2009 and 2010.
Source: "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," 10th edition.
Editor's Note: Hard copies are freely available to vermont residents by calling 864-5743 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.