Vermont 13th-most expensive state for renters, report says


MONTPELIER -- Even if lawmakers were to approve an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, it would still require a family to have two full-time jobs to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in Vermont.

That's according to the Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, D.C., research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.

The 2014 reports says the average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the state is $1,007 a month. That means a family would have to earn $19.36 an hour ($40,272 a year) to afford the rent, based on spending 30 percent of their income on housing. That's up from $18.53 an hour last year.

The cost in the Burlington-South Burlington metro area is much greater with $25.17 an hour required to afford the fair market rent, the report says. Vermont's minimum wage is $8.73 an hour.

Cuts in federal funding for affordable housing and the partisan standoff in Congress have hindered efforts to create more low- and moderate-income housing in Vermont, advocates say.

"This is one of the worst times for federal funding for affordable housing," said Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. "The state of Vermont does what it can, and this year's budget makes headway, but it's still not enough."

Mahnke said funding from the departments of Housing and Urban Development and USDA Rural Development began to erode in 2010, making it more difficult to find developers for new affordable housing stock.

One potential source of funding for affordable housing, the National Housing Trust Fund signed by President George Bush in 2008, could help but it has never been funded. The law calls for federal mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to contribute to the fund. But the national mortgage crisis intervened and the federally backed lenders fell on hard times, according to a New York Times editorial.

As the housing market rebounds, that program could be capitalized, Mahnke said.

According to a news release from the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont could realize $3 million a year if the housing trust was funded.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition report put the nationwide housing wage for a modest two-bedroom unit at $18.92, placing Vermont as the 13th-most expensive state in which to rent.

"We need more housing production more federal and state investment in viable and robust affordable housing," Mahnke said.


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