By Councilor Jim Duncan
I serve as the City Council Liaison to the Housing Commission, which is charged with helping the City 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". This update covers our recent work in December and January.
The Housing Commission met on December 28th, where the Commission determined that Winooski is not providing as much family-sized housing (units with 2+ or 3+ bedrooms) as neighboring communities. View the 2019 Bedroom Count Comparison Presentation showing the difference between Winooski and Chittenden County here.
The Housing Commission met on January 26th, where the Commission 1) discussed what types of housing development should receive impact fee waivers and 2) reviewed policy options and incentives for providing family-sized housing. Fire Chief John Audy also gave more information on the public building registry and how it connects to housing quality. City Council is considering an impact fee that would help pay for needed infrastructure upgrades, such as bigger sidewalks, with fees on new development. The City has the option of waiving this fee for developers when they build uses that we need in the city, such as a childcare facility or an affordable housing unit. Council asked the Housing Commission to make a list ranking what types of housing could receive a fee waiver – developers will then have an incentive to build more of that type of housing. After considering several factors, the Commission recommended that, in terms of meeting Winooski’s housing goals, we should consider:
For reference, the area median income for a household of four in our region is $89,700, so 80% is $71,760. You can learn more about what a Winooski impact fee might look like here. You can view the presentation on impact fees to City Council here (see linked item #14). You can also view the memo outlining Council’s request to Commission on impact fees here.
The Housing Commission also received information about possible options for incentives to give when developers build priority housing, including density bonuses (such as allowing an additional story), parking minimums waivers (allowing fewer parking spots per new unit), tax incentives, trust fund disbursements, and impact fee waivers. The Commission is interested in looking at the potential for all of these and has requested an additional analysis from staff on how these would play out in Winooski’s context specifically. This will be discussed in February. In addition to these two in-depth discussions, Commissioners learned more about the public building registry from Fire Chief John Audy. The registry inspects rentals for life safety and code issues, working through all Winooski rentals every four years. The Chief discussed how this fits into the larger community risk reduction framework and the benefits of this registry for engaging with tenants and landlords around housing issues.
The Housing Commission meets on the 4th Monday each month. Meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will take place on February 22nd at 6 PM. To learn more about the Housing Commission and how to get involved, please visit https://www.winooskivt.gov/233/Housing-Commission.
Please get in touch if you have any input or questions on the work of the Housing Commission – Jim Duncan, firstname.lastname@example.org.