It is concerning that the Bennington Select Board has taken preliminary steps to allow Shires Housing to build 24 rental units off Silver Street. In making its decision, the board apparently relied in part on Shire’s claim of a 2.2 percent rental vacancy rate. The basis for that claim is from a market analysis done for Shires which derived this implied rate from some historic data, but stated "No definitive current surveys of Bennington County rental vacancy are available."

Adding to the uncertainty is the effect of recent job losses when the Plasan plant closed in May and other impending closures. Drive around town and note the number of homes for sale. Check the real-estate listings: There are 28 apartment buildings listed, representing 68 rental units with an average time on market of 278 days. It is difficult to conclude that we need to add to the existing inventory especially as property values decline.

What is also concerning is taxpayer subsidies of construction costs and future rents without known benefit. In particular, private landlords must support their competition with their own tax dollars while trying to compete on an unlevel playing field.

With forecasted population decline and few prospects for meaningful job growth, what will happen if landlords are forced into foreclosure because they can neither rent nor sell their properties?

What happens to the tax base as property values continue to fall? There are too many unanswered questions for the Select Board to have moved forward with the grant application.


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The responsible course now would be to withdraw the application and gather relevant information in an open and thorough manner to answer the public’s questions.

Please join us in expressing our concerns at the Select Board meeting, July 14 at 6 p.m., and at the July 15 meeting of the Development Review Board at 6:30 p.m. Both meetings are at the Bennington Firehouse.

BECKY AMOS

Bennington Re: Shires Housing

I grew up in Bennington. My wife and I recently decided to move back to Bennington. We purchased a townhouse in Apple Ridge, the condo development near the newly proposed Shires Apartments.

When we bought the condo, we believed that the next phase of the development was to be a build out of more townhouses in accordance with the original plan.

Now we find out that Shires is proposing to build 24 low-income apartments.

When the land had previously gone before the town boards, it was granted for townhouses, not low-income apartments.

Our personal investment is suddenly and unexpectedly in serious jeopardy.

How can you change the course of this development after nine units have been sold? Is this legal? At the very least I believe it is morally wrong.

Does the town really need more affordable housing? Shires alone already has 150 units in Bennington.

Look at all the housing properties for sale in town. That should tell everybody something.

When does the taxpayer get a break?

KEVIN and BONNIE CALLANAN

Bennington