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Vermont’s housing crisis is one of the biggest issues that our state faces today. This is an issue for thousands of Vermonters and many businesses who are struggling to meet their workforce needs due to the housing shortage. Over the past several years, we’ve seen the costs of housing skyrocket while wages have stayed stagnant. Median home prices are up 15% over the last year and 21% since 2021. We currently have the second lowest rental vacancy rate in the country at just 2.4%, and the average cost of rentals has ballooned. For those who need accessible housing options, the options are even more limited. Our housing supply has not kept up with demand. Simply building more housing without affordability provisions will not solve the economic challenges that Vermonters face.
Investing in housing is an investment in Vermont’s future. Not only will building more permanently affordable housing help decrease the economic pressure that Vermonters are feeling right now, but it will also help create more economic opportunity for our state by allowing us to grow and develop our workforce.
S.100, a housing omnibus bill, will be debated in the Senate next week. S.100 helps address some of the housing issues we are facing. Key aspects of the bill include:
Allowing denser development in areas where infrastructure, such as municipal sewer and water, already exist.
Allowing easier development of duplexes and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
Disallowing municipalities from prohibiting hotels from renting to those with housing assistance funds
Though there are many positive aspects of this bill, it has also received attention for eliminating some environmental regulations around development set in place by Act 250, including removing the requirement for developers to receive Act 250 permits for developments or subdivisions in an enhanced designation area and raising the jurisdictional threshold for Act 250 from the development of 10 units to 25. These changes have raised flags for many who fear that loosening these regulations will cause environmental damage. I am pleased that the Senate Natural Resources Committee has come up with a balanced compromise that protect our natural resources while still promoting housing development and density to address some of the housing needs. This amendment still preserves much of this state’s natural beauty and resources while developing housing wisely and compactly.
S.100 also works to address some social inequity issues from legacy policies that disadvantaged marginalized communities. This is a real step forward.
With the good that this legislation will do, I hope to see more permanently affordable housing stock developed. When we use public tax dollars, we need to be sure that the public will benefit for the long run. If the affordability provisions sunset or disappear, then eventually this public money is more of a gift to developers than an investment in Vermonters and our future.
Abortion and Gender Affirming Healthcare Shield Law
An important bill passed through the Senate today. S.37 is a “shield law” for providers of abortion and gender-affirming healthcare. A few key parts of this bill are:
A requirement for health insurance plans and Medicaid to cover gender-affirming health care services and abortion-related services,
Protection from professional disciplinary action for health care providers who provide or assist in legally protected health care services,
Establishing a new “unfair and deceptive act” to prohibit false and misleading advertising about services provided by “pregnancy centers” that are not providing the full range of medical options for clients, and
Allowing pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception and permit pharmacies, colleges, and universities to make nonprescription emergency contraception and other contraceptives available by vending machine.
Gender-affirming care and reproductive healthcare can be lifesaving. Increasing access to and insurance coverage for these will be tremendously beneficial for those who need to seek out this care.
Consumer protections for Towed Vehicles
Last year, a Car & Driver report listed Vermont as one of the worst states in the country for consumer-towing protections. It’s clear that towing companies provide an invaluable service to Vermonters, willing to help us in our worst moments, and tending to our emergencies. According to a report conducted by US PIRG last year, Vermont lacks many essential towing protections for consumers found in other states. Representative Rachelson is introducing H.143, a bill to implement some new consumer protections in this sector, and we want to hear more stories to get a sense of how you’ve experienced towing in the state. If you have a towing experience to share, please fill out our survey: https://forms.gle/bNr8uXuuVSAfxENeA
Fossil Fuel Divestment Update
Exciting news: S.42, the Senate’s fossil fuel divestment bill that I talked about in a previous newsletter, was voted out of the Government Operations committee today and will be on the Senate floor next week.
As always, we encourage you to contact your legislators and the Governor’s office on these issue and other issues that are important to you.
Next week, I will be in Washington D.C. attending the National Lieutenant Governor Association’s annual spring conference. I will be connecting with other Lt. Governor’s and looking for ways that we can collaborate on some of the issues that Vermonters care about the most. I’m looking forward to both sharing my experiences with Lt. Governors from around the country and bringing some new ideas back to Vermont with me.
Lt. Governor David Zuckerman
Friday, March 24th
8:30 am- 10:00 am
Lt. Governor’s Office, State House