Chris Donnelly, Director of Community Relations for the Champlain Housing Trust and VAHC Steering Committee member, writes about how affordable housing helps strengthen our economy for the Burlington Free Press:
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rob Naylor, president and co-founder of Naylor & Breen Builders, a Brandon-based construction company. He had come to the Vermont Statehouse to explain to lawmakers how important building affordable housing was to his business and his 80 employees — especially when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008.
His message? Don’t skimp on funding affordable housing.
The need for affordable housing is well documented: renters in Chittenden County are the most cost-burdened in New England, across the state there’s a 1 percent vacancy rate (a healthy market is 4-6 percent vacancy), and homelessness increased.
All of these are compelling reasons for the state and local communities to invest in affordable housing. But, as Mr. Naylor told legislators, there is another benefit that’s right before our eyes: the economy.
Construction companies like Naylor & Breen are perhaps most visibly affected by the housing industry, but many others are as well. Architects, lumber mills, lighting suppliers, heating and plumbing manufacturing and installation, and financial institutions, to name but a few, all are dependent on housing production. Indeed, the overall economy is affected, from the local on up to the national level. Both new construction and the rehabilitation of existing housing mean increased tax revenues for local and state government.
Moreover, thanks to an ongoing ripple effect, area businesses — grocery stores, bars and restaurants, auto repair shops and gas stations — along with public transportation providers will also be impacted directly.
How do we quantify this? According to the National Association of Home Builders, for every 10 apartments built, 12.2 construction-related jobs are created. After they are built, the people in them support another three jobs in the community.
One of my colleagues, Jim Lovinsky of the Lamoille Housing Partnership, counted the contractors who worked on the recently completed $5.5 million renovation of the former Arthur’s department store in Morrisville: 12 engineers, architects, attorneys, funders, and others were involved from the outset, some 30 contractors, engineers, laborers, and trucking and waste management personnel were responsible for environmental cleanup, and construction called for 50 or so carpenters, electricians, plumbers, HVAC contractors, painters, masons, and landscapers. Think of the impact these people had on the economic well-being of Morrisville while construction was underway.
At the Champlain Housing Trust, the largest of Vermont’s nonprofit housing organizations, we are stewards for property worth approximately $300 million — and with the exception of a small handful of properties that serve the most vulnerable, all of our properties pay taxes. In fact, a recent development in Shelburne illustrates this benefit. A property that previously contributed approximately $12,000 in taxes is now home to more than 80 homes and pays about $90,000 in property taxes.
The Housing Trust uses 750 vendors a year and generates $90 million worth of economic activity annually through our property management, development, lending, and other mission-driven activities. That’s robust for our economy,and important for the stability of people we serve.
The bottom line: affordable housing adds more than safe and secure housing for those who need it. Affordable housing contributes greatly to the economic well-being of our communities.
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