Home Vermont Upper Valley housing crunch has municipalities taking matters into their own hands

Upper Valley housing crunch has municipalities taking matters into their own hands

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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) – When it comes to building homes, it’s not just a job for contractors anymore. Local municipalities are thinking outside the box to create much-needed housing.

It has been widely reported that there is a serious housing shortage in the Upper Valley which can have ripple effects across the economy, and because of that, local municipalities are taking housing into their own hands.

“Housing is very scarce. What is available is getting very, very expensive,” Lebanon Deputy City Manager David Brooks said.

Without new housing at an affordable price, the people who keep cities and towns going can’t move into the community.

“Teachers, firefighters, city employees, private business employees– the people that run a city, that make a city work,” Brooks said.

So, Lebanon is getting into the housing business. The city is using a $440,000 state InvestNH grant to do the initial site work and build single-family homes on a city-owned parcel. Eventually, they will be sold at cost with public employees getting priority.

“The City Council has been very clear that they want to get involved. They want to have a role creating the housing that the market is not creating,” Brooks said.

In nearby Claremont, a proposed zoning ordinance change would pave the way for multiple 1,000-square-foot cottages or smaller on a single lot.

“We are addressing the same issues across our state and I think Vermont is the same,” said Nancy Merrill, Claremont’s planning and development director.

Claremont has also changed parking and density ordinances to make way for more units.

Officials say starter homes are in the shortest supply.

“New single homes that maybe are a little smaller, a little more affordable for first-time homeowners or for retirees that may not want a large home anymore,” Merrill said.

Back in Lebanon, two other city-owned lots could be developed down the road if the city can cover its costs on the initial project.

“This is a step that we can take, it’s not going to generate scores of units but every little bit helps,” Brooks said.

If the site planning is a go in Lebanon, city officials hope to have shovels in the ground by spring 2025.

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