By Councilor Jim Duncan
I serve as the City Council Liaison to the Housing Commission, which is charged with helping Council and staff "ensure a mix of quality housing that maintains and enhances Winooski’s unique sense of place and supports the needs of the entire community".
The Housing Commission met on August 24th to finalize its work plan for the year which will focus on implementing the Housing Trust Fund, continuing to monitor housing-related issues in our community and developing policy recommendations. The commission also discussed initial indicators gathered about the impacts of the pandemic on renters and mortgage payers in the City.
Following discussions in June and July among the City Council, City staff and the Housing Commission about the effects the pandemic will have on the stability of housing in our community, City staff provided a report on some initial data gathering. Through July, unemployment rates in Winooski are consistently higher than surrounding communities, presenting a concern when coupled with our higher proportion of cost-burdened renters and homeowners. Based on census data, Vermont as a whole had a rent non-payment rate of 14% in mid-July, but renters are expressing growing confidence in their ability to make their payments. Mortgage non-payment is much lower in Vermont, but mortgage holders are expressing increasing concerns about making payments. If these rates at the state level are applied to the City, around 313 households have not paid for their housing in the past months. Another early indicator is that participation by Winooski households in the state’s Mortgage Assistance Program (https://www.vhfa.org/map/) is more than double the statewide number, though the overall numbers are fairly low.
While none of these numbers sounds an immediate alarm about a housing stability cliff for our community, the Commission will continue to review these indicators, and where possible City staff will collect additional information and bring new data sources to the Commission for consideration. If you are having trouble paying your rent or mortgage, there are supports available:
The Housing Commission meets on the 4th Monday each month and meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will take place on September 28 at 6 PM. Please get in touch if you have any input or questions on the work of the Commission – Jim Duncan, firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Housing Commission and how to get involved, please visit https://www.winooskivt.gov/233/Housing-Commission.