Scarce housing in Burlington is a crisis not just for low-income residents, according to a new report commissioned by the city. Burlington's dearth of market-rate -- or unsubsidized -- housing options is driving up prices for everyone, the report finds.
"As a result, Burlington is now at an inflection point," according to the recently released Downtown Housing Strategy Report, written by HR&A Associates.
The city can either develop as a vibrant but expensive college town, or choose to integrate more housing in a wider spectrum of price points into broader economic development strategies and become more walkable.
Burlington's population overall is growing, but more from students and empty nesters, while the number of young and middle-aged residents is down, the report says. And despite the growth in demand, the city's housing stock has remained static. As a result, prices have only risen with competition.
The city has a 1 percent vacancy rate. Renters must work 1.6 full-time jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, according to estimates from HR&A. A downtown studio rents for more than a two-bedroom unit elsewhere in the city, the report finds.
The irony is that, according to HR&A's Candace Damon, an affordable housing policy has indirectly contributed to higher costs by stalling housing developments.
The main reason rents are high in Burlington is the limited supply, Damon said.
The city's inclusionary zoning policy, Damon said, requires a certain percentage of housing units in a given development to be "affordable." But Burlington is a relatively small community to experiment with inclusionary zoning, Damon said.
Burlington's latest housing report recommends downtown infill, development along the Pine Street corridor to the south of downtown, more on-campus student housing to relieve pressure on the private market, and incentivizing multi-family housing developments deemed affordable for a wide spectrum of households.