According to Vermont Realtors, the average days on market for single-family homes in Montpelier has dropped considerably in the last year, from 138 days in 2016 to just 65 days in 2017. In addition, it is commonly known that apartment vacancy rates are very low and rents are high.
This tells us a couple of things:
- There are few houses/apartments available to buy/rent and many people seeking to live here.
- Montpelier is a desirable place to live.
While perhaps beneficial for individual property values, these factors have the effect of driving up prices in an already expensive location.
Given our demographics, from a sustainability standpoint, higher prices not only make building a life here challenging for working households seeking to buy, but they also have the potential to force residents on fixed incomes out of our community.
Our context presents difficult terrain for the vast majority of young families seeking to join us and settle here, especially for those who have moderate incomes as average wages have been stagnant in recent years. It also carries uncertainty for those hoping to spend their retirement years in the place they've made a home.
I feel strongly that having a higher cost of living is bad for Montpelier and could change the character of our community.
So how do we begin addressing these issues?
While there is no silver bullet, there are some opportunities that we might take advantage of.
- For starters, there is a large and active group of Montpelier seniors seeking to spur construction of smaller units they could move into. Such additional housing options would free up their current homes for younger families to purchase and fill. If elders looking to downsize cannot find a suitable space within our city, we are at risk of losing many of these long-time residents as they move away.
- The new zoning regulation in Montpelier encourages higher housing densities throughout our community, which may help but is not necessarily enough. We need to look at other hurdles and figure out how City Hall can help navigate prospective buyers and builders, and promote good jobs so residents can afford to live here.
- When many of the large houses in Montpelier were built around 1900, they were done so to accommodate large families. Since 1900 the average household size has dropped to nearly half of what it used to be. Montpelier still has many houses that are built for a different era. One way to relieve the housing crunch is to incentivize and encourage these houses to adapt to today's realities.
- Keeping tax rate increases reasonable would help with affordability. Supporting downtown housing, as suggested by Net Zero advocates, is also an important focus in making our city livable and walkable.
- We must make sure that we retain the character and special qualities of our neighborhoods and the city itself. These are things that draw so many people here in the first place.
If elected, I will make housing of all types and price ranges a priority and encourage creative thinking in this area.
Having a functional and resilient infrastructure is critical to our city. Thankfully, the last several years have shone a light on the importance of funding and maintaining that infrastructure. After all, it's far more costly to replace failing infrastructure like roads, bridges, and sidewalks, than it is to properly maintain them. However, having spent part of my career understanding the considerations that go into maintaining our assets, there are enormous opportunities and efficiencies that can be gained when leveraging technology to assist in decision making processes.
Properly applied asset management technology can allow the city to make the right investments, in the right assets, at the right time.
Montpelier spends about 35% ($4.8 million) of its municipal budget on infrastructure according to the FY18 Budget Report. There is no doubt that this is a lot of money for a population of fewer than 8,000.
In fact, the median household in Montpelier pays approximately $850 each year to fund our infrastructure. Those dollars should be working as hard as they possibly can.
It's my hope, that if elected, I can bring my experience and understanding of asset management into the decision making process. Specifically, I would like to:
- Increase transparency,
- Increase accountability, and
- promote longer range planning for our infrastructure and overall budget.
As a life-long mountain biker, a former triathlete, and hopeless cross country skier, the outdoors have always been a big part of my life. It's no coincidence that my wife and I chose Montpelier to settle down.
The surrounding areas host a treasure trove of outdoor recreation opportunities. We have four rivers that flow through Montpelier and two of them are right downtown. These are not only natural resources, but also potential attractions for canoeing, kayaking, and other water activities if engaged appropriately and respectfully.
We should embrace the rivers. They are a part of our topography and our history.
I am interested in exploring thoughtful approaches to how we can engage our rivers as a part of what makes us a unique and beautiful, active city.
Another gem of our city is Hubbard Park. It's heavy use and frequent public debate about appropriate use tells me that Montpelier residents are passionate about it. It seems to me, that if this is such a desirable asset to Montpelier, then we should look for ways to expand on it's desirable qualities while being conscious that taxpayers may not have additional resources to provide.
Mountain biking is a fast growing sport that many communities surrounding Montpelier have been able to capitalize on. The Town of Warren recently saw the addition of the Blueberry Lake Mountain Bike Trails. They recently conducted an economic impact analysis and found that the trails increase spending in the surrounding community by over $1 million/year. When visiting this beginner trails network, one often sees bicycle traffic from in-state residents, out of state visitors, and even Canadian tourists.
Montpelier has forested land available that could be responsibly preserved and made more accessible to it's taxpayers by building community mountain bike trails for all ages and abilities. Expanding mountain biking on city owned property would not only bring in visitors and business to our downtown stores, but could likely be done so at low or no cost to taxpayers due to the many grant opportunities and robust volunteer community behind this sport.
To that end, if elected, I will seek ways to support and expand recreational offerings here in ways that don't burden the taxpayer.