Rockingham Tri-board meeting discusses housing data

The Tri-board meeting on Sept. 27, 2022 heard from VHFA, who discussed housing issues and data in Rockingham. Photo provided

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at the Tri-board meeting, the Rockingham Selectboard and Bellows Falls and Saxtons River Village Trustees heard a presentation from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA).

The Rockingham Incremental Development Working Group (RIDWG) invited VHFA to present their findings from the 2020 VT Housing Needs Assessment. John Dunbar, Planning Commissioner and RIDWG member, facilitated and introduced VHFA Director’s Mia Watson and Seth Leonard.

RIDWG was formed after the Take Action Rockingham meetings in 2020 and technical assistance was provided by the Incremental Development Alliance (IncDev) in late 2021. RIDWG is made up of property stakeholders, residents and homeowners and continues the work of the IncDev focus on small incremental improvements through a low investment alternative development model.

VHFA operates as a bank for affordable housing, and is currently working with Windham and Windsor Housing Trust on the Bellows Falls Garage Project. They offer affordable home loans, tax credits, and serve as a data and information hub for the State.

Watson presented data for the Town of Rockingham and Windham County, specifying that half of Rockingham households live within the Village of Bellows Falls and 45% are renters, while Windham County has 33% renters. The average household size is 2.16 people and 27% of heads of household are aged 65 or older in Rockingham. Findings for Rockingham from 2010–2020 showed 46 new renter households with a decrease of homeowners. Median home prices rose from $100,000 to $260,000. Rockingham homes cost less than Windham County and the state as a whole. Rockingham incomes are lower than both county and state, and 40% of households spend over one third of their income on housing. Rockingham has some of the oldest homes in the state; 58% were built before 1940.

Watson said home construction fails to keep pace with demand. Rockingham records building permits for an average of ten new homes per year. Leonard added that construction costs grew 30% and they are seeing a statewide average of $400,000 per unit to develop multi-family units. She concluded with the questions, “What types of homes does Rockingham need and where do we want to build new ones?”

The findings show that 38% of Rockingham’s households are one-person households, but only 17% of the homes are studio and one-bedroom units. The town costs associated with rural and suburban homes compared to Downtown Center ones are three times the cost, $3,462 compared to $1,416 per home. The estimated tax value per acre is $460,000 for a single family rural home, compared to $8.9 million for a mixed-use multi-family in the village.

For resources and more information from VHFA visit www.housingdata.org/toolbox.

For RIDWG information, email Administrator Sarah Lang at rockinghamidwg@gmail.com.

The next Tri-board meeting is in December. Saxtons River Trustees meet monthly on Mondays, Bellows Falls Trustees on the second and fourth Tuesday, and the Rockingham Selectboard on the first and third Tuesdays. Visit www.rockinghamvt.org for Agenda and Zoom links.

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