LONDONDERRY — Construction of the Bob Perry Lane house is well underway, and its steering committee has reached the first milestone of $100,000 in fundraising to get things started, according to Paul Alcorn, chairman of the Mountain Towns Housing Project.
The Bob Perry Lane house is a modest home that will be sold to a local family meeting certain income criteria.
“We have heard from local residents that they can’t afford to live in the town they grew up in because affordable housing is scarce in our mountain communities,” Alcorn said in a statement. “People who have lived here all their lives have a hard time finding an affordable home, as they seek to be on their own, start families, establish a business or find employment with a local business.”
The facts are alarming, Alcorn noted. Housing prices in Vermont increased by nearly 9 percent in 2021 and are expected to surge by more than 10 percent in 2022, according to the latest financial report from the Vermont Department of Finance and Management.
In addition, the report anticipates an additional 9 percent increase in Vermont housing prices in 2023. In Windham and Windsor counties, the average listing price of a home versus the average estimated value rose 122 percent in just one year (Dec. 20, 2020, to Dec. 21, 2021), according to the Vermont Association of Realtors.
Affordable housing is considered housing for our local workforce or essentially a primary home. This means providing housing for families who earn between $47,093 and $109,000 (80 percent to 120 percent of the median income in Windham County). These are the folks who teach at our local schools, work at the grocery store, hardware store, at ski resorts, provide support services for second homeowners, drive the town’s snowplows, wait tables at area restaurants, work at the medical center and many other jobs.
The Bob Perry Lane project started in early 2021, when a longtime local family, concerned with the lack of workforce housing, decided to donate 1.8 acres in Londonderry for an affordable housing project. The donors’ hope was to build a house to make one family’s dream of homeownership a reality.
Later in 2021, a group of interested mountain town residents organized the Mountain Towns Housing Project Steering Committee with the goal of bringing this dream to a reality. The committee consists of volunteers from a variety of towns, including Weston, Londonderry, South Londonderry, Andover, Windham and Ludlow. The group has also been working with the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust, an affordable housing nonprofit developer serving Windham and Windsor counties.
“The gift of the 1.76 acres, exemplifies the very best of our Mountain communities — a gift from a longtime local family who want to support folks who live and work in our communities by providing an affordable home of their very own,” said Laurie Krooss, pastor of the Second Congregational Church and a member of the steering committee. “Given in the spirit of ‘Habitat for Humanity,’ the gift of the land is meant to be a hand up not a handout.”
Alcorn said the biggest challenge is that it is nearly impossible to build an “affordable” house in today’s market.
“The cost of construction has skyrocketed. The cost estimates for the construction came in at $355,940 and adding in the cost of a well, septic, running electric to the house, etc., the total price tag of this project comes to $400,000,” Alcorn said. “These funds will offset all upfront costs and the materials needed to build the house. Much of the labor will be done with volunteers, following the ‘Habitat for Humanity’ model.”
When the house is completed and a family has been selected, the new homeowners will get assistance with a down payment grant through the housing trust and take out a low-interest mortgage. The house will remain affordable in perpetuity through a partnership with the trust. Family selection will take place in the spring 2023, and more information about this process will be shared with the community soon.
“We envision this to be the first of many such efforts bringing together local senior residents, second homeowners, skilled tradespeople, and those in need of housing that is attainable to build additional homes meeting a vital need in our community. This could include new construction on donated land or the rehab of an existing home,” said Alcorn.
The next fundraising goal is to raise an additional $60,000 by Dec. 31. This will allow the group to order the shell of the house in January 2023, which will be constructed by LaValley’s, delivered to the site in late March and installed on the foundation, so volunteer work can be started.
“The committee would like to thank all of the donors to date who have supported the Perry Lane project, especially the couple who donated the land for the house. We also thank those individuals and businesses who have donated products or services totaling over $110,000. We deeply appreciate their belief in the project and their help in addressing this critical need in our area,” the steering committee said in a statement. “While it is only one house, we know we can do more with the help of the greater community once this project is completed and the keys have been turned over to the family.”