On the last day of the 2023 session, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that will have big impacts on livability in our communities by changing outdated zoning laws to be more housing-friendly. The bill, S.100 or the HOME Act, is focused on creating more housing opportunities and affordable homes for everyone by allowing higher density development in areas with sewer and water service. It acknowledges that current zoning regulations, land use policies, and lengthy permitting processes are no longer meeting the needs of Vermonters, including the 50+ population who want to age in place.
The HOME Act opens doors to more housing production by focusing growth on areas where development already exists and makes sense. Here are some ways the bill addresses the housing crisis and increases livability in Vermont municipalities:
Large lots can prevent the development of walkable, affordable, sustainable neighborhoods that can alleviate our state’s housing shortage and jumpstart our economy.
Excessive parking can perpetuate sprawl, promotes auto-oriented (and emission-heavy) patterns of transit instead of walkable communities, and eats up valuable space that could be used for housing.
Limits on allowable uses can curtail creative housing solutions such as mixed-use residential above an existing commercial use.
The bill also eases the Act 250 or development review process for builders—by allowing development of up to 25 units in designated downtowns and villages—and provides millions of dollars in subsidies to build more homes and help renters in areas located near schools, jobs, stores, and recreation.
These measures add up to enable smaller, denser, “missing middle” homes and accessory dwelling units that would make it easier for older Vermonters to downsize in walkable communities, near friends and neighbors, in an affordable and independent manner.
Vermont joins Oregon, California, Virginia, and Washington as states pursuing zoning reform as an avenue to greater housing affordability, and more livable, walkable communities. This tripartisan legislation showcases what makes Vermont unique: as a pro-property and municipal rights state, Vermont is still a place where folks across the aisle build bridges for the common good, and are able to shift long-standing policy to be more equitable.
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This story is provided by AARP Vermont. Visit the AARP Vermont page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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