It's all the same crisis

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"The rent is too damn high," according to The Rent is Too Damn High Party. Founded in 2005 and mostly active in New York, the party's message makes sense in a lot of other places across America, Vermont included.

We'll add that wages might also be too damn low.

According to the 2017 Out of Reach report issued recently by the Low Income Housing Coalition. Vermont has the fifth largest gap between renter's wages and what's needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

VTDigger recently wrote about the report, which can be found at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2017.pdf.

According to the report, to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Vermont those paying rent have to make a combined $21,90 per hour. That's a little higher than the national rate of $21.21 per hour. This is called a "housing wage," and Vermont has the 13th highest in the country.

In Vermont, Bennington has the sixth highest housing wage of $19 per hour needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment. An apartment is considered affordable when not more than 30 percent of the household's income is going towards housing costs. This leaves many people not many missed paychecks away from being homeless.

According to the Digger article, Erhard Mahnke, of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, says that to address this problem there needs to be capital investments made into existing rental properties, rental assistance for those who can't quite afford an apartment, and better funding for homeless services.

Read: Money, money, and more money. Three things Vermont often finds itself wanting.

Typically when someone bemoans the size of property tax bills, they're referring to homeowners. What often gets left out of the conversation is landlords. Not just professional landlords with dozens of properties, but those who own one or a few buildings, some of which they may live in themselves. Often these places are former single-unit homes chopped up into apartments. Many are in need of expensive repairs and often the landlords are unable to invest what's needed in them. Being a landlord, even a small one, is a business venture. Those who engage in it are looking to make a profit. That's hard to do when the little income a property generates is being eaten up by property taxes, fees, and other costs. And that's with good tenants who pay their rent on time.

Vermont's "rental housing crisis" is really just its property tax crisis, a problem better solved through tax reform and smarter spending.


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