Sen. Clarkson: Housing a crucial need in Vermont

By Sen. Alison Clarkson

It is wonderful to get back to work at the State House.

The energy around the building is positive and productive. One of the pleasures of being a legislator in Vermont is serving in a legislature where we can work together. Over 90 percent of our votes are by consensus and people respect the work of the committees. We may disagree on how to solve some of the thorny challenges we face, but legislators are there because they care deeply about Vermont and are committed to improving life in our state.

Between sessions, I was engaged in two major areas of our legislative work – workforce development and housing. As vice chair of Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs (SED), I was invited to go to two conferences – one in Utah to work on reciprocal licensing (individual state licensing requirements are often a barrier to easily moving into a state) and one in Germany to learn about that country’s famous apprenticeship system. The costs of my attending both conferences were almost completely covered by the non-partisan Council of State Governments.

From these stimulating meetings I come into this session hoping to expand our apprenticeship programs, engage more career and technical education students in dual enrollment, create incentives to reduce student debt, reduce barriers to licensing for our veterans, alumni of corrections and new Americans and work with other states to expand uniform licensing.

Housing is a critical piece of economic development. Without housing we cannot attract new employees. And, without affordable housing, employees spend valuable time commuting — at a cost to the environment and to themselves. Our SED Committee made a tour of Vermont to more fully understand the state’s housing needs.

We held public meetings in Bellows Falls, Rutland, South Burlington, St. Albans and White River Junction and it is clear that we need a lot more housing that people with a variety of incomes can afford. We also need housing for people to down-size into, and we need to renovate and weatherize our older housing stock. There is also a need for more service supported housing for people with special needs (from the disabled to those recovering from addictions).

The cost of building is so high, financing housing is complex and many partners are needed to leverage significant investment. Three years ago we authorized a Housing Revenue Bond. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency raised $37 million in bond proceeds to build almost 1,000 new homes. In 2020, we hope to continue creating incentives for building more housing.

I appreciate hearing from you.

I can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tuesday through Friday) 802-828-2228 or at home (Saturday through Monday) 802-457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont legislature, and the bills that have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website by clicking here.

Sen. Clarkson represents Windsor County in the state legislature.

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