QUEEN CITY HOUSING COSTS 35% HIGHER THAN NATIONAL AVERAGELake Champlain Chamber, VHFA identify housing as a crisis for Vermont’sworking familiesBURLINGTON – Vermont’s Queen City area might be one of the most livable inAmerica, but it’s also an increasingly expensive one, especially forhousing.New figures from ACCRA, a community and economic development researchassociation, released today by the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce andVermont Housing Finance Agency, show that the cost-of-living in theBurlington area — Burlington, Essex, South Burlington, Winooski andColchester — for the third quarter of 2004 was more than 17 percent abovethe national average. In the same period in 2003, the area’s compositeindex was 12.5 percent above the national average.In the third quarter 2004, Burlington was higher than the national averagein every category, with the greatest deviation from the mean found in thecost of housing at 134.8%. The city’s utilities were at 117.8%;miscellaneous goods and services at 106.4%; transportation at 109.4%; andgrocery items at 110.4Chamber President A. Wayne Roberts identified housing as a key componentofthe organization’s efforts to attract and retain businesses and theiremployees to the area. “High housing costs are a challenge for thoseseeking to live and work in Greater Burlington,” he said. “For a lot ofpeople relocating to our region, it means a choice between Burlington at135% of the national average and Plattsburgh at 93%.””Clearly, we’re still playing catch-up when it comes to providing anadequate supply of affordable housing, and that’s driving up costs,” saidVHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “We know this problem affectsindividual Vermonters, their families, our businesses and our economy as awhole. It boils down to a fundamental issue of costs versus wages.Vermonters are having trouble finding affordable housing.”According to the ACCRA data, the most expensive two-bedroom apartment inthenation is in New York City with an average monthly rent of $3,506. Theleast expensive is Hays, Kansas with an average monthly rent of $450.Burlington’s average monthly rent is $1,120. One silver lining in theACCRAreport is that the Burlington area’s housing costs are still lower thansomeother New England metro areas, such as New Haven, Conn. at 149.3%;Providence, R.I. at 168.3%; and Boston at 178.5%. Yet the GreaterBurlington area’s housing costs rank above cities like Miami, Fla. at127%;Hilton Head, S.C., at 110.3%; and Las Vegas, at 130.1%.The Lake Champlain Chamber has identified housing as an economicdevelopmentpriority for the 2005 legislative session, citing it, along with taxburdens, as a chief business competitiveness issue. VHFA offerslow-interest mortgages for qualified homebuyers and provides funding andadministers state and federal housing tax credits to encourage developmentof affordable rental units. Both organizations are members of the VermontHousing Awareness Campaign, www.housingawareness.org(link is external), a state-wide publiceducation effort to build support for housing development.The Lake Champlain Chamber is a participant in the nation-widecost-of-living index, compiled by ACCRA. The ACCRA survey examines theafter-tax cost of a professional/managerial standard of living for 324urbanareas.The quarterly index is available by subscription. Go online towww.costofliving.org(link is external) for additional information. The cost of living datafor the Burlington area was compiled by The Lake Champlain Chamber andEconomic and Policy Resources of Williston. Data are available atwww.vermont.org(link is external). Additional housing statistical information is availableatthe Vermont Housing Data Web site, www.housingdata.org(link is external).
?CLEAR LAKE — Clear Lake’s city hall and library buildings are reopening to the public this week, but City Administrator Scott Flory is expressing some doubts on if or when the city’s aquatic center will open this summer.Flory says the first step is waiting to see if the state lifts any restrictions that are currently in place. “Obviously the governor’s proclamation prohibits splash pads, aquatic centers, those kinds of things from being open through the 27th. So we’re in a difficult scenario there. Staffing becomes a critical thing for us there. We don’t know what’s going to happen come the 28th, whether or not that proclamation would be extended or not.”One of the key things would be staffing the pool with lifeguards, with many of those positions being filled by high school and college students. Flory says they may run into a staffing shortage. “The governor has also indicated that schools are going to be able to open sooner. It used to be they were restricted on when the start date could be for school, so that has changed. So it’s possible — I do not know this and have had no discussions, but just hypothesizing — it’s possible that schools could start early, which obviously our lifeguard staff is comprised of school people, so they would probably be only having a job maybe through July at the most. We probably would not likely have much more than maybe a six-week swim season.”Flory says it would be tough to ask lifeguards to turn down other summer jobs if the city doesn’t know if or when the aquatic center would open. “Keeping the lifeguards that are interested in working for us in the active file, obviously they want to be lifeguards and have a job for the summer, and if we’re not going to be able to open the pool, then we don’t have anything for them to do. So we’re in a bit of a difficult spot.”Flory says the amount of things that would be sanitized on a frequent basis and social distancing restrictions could also be an issue with pool operations. “Our pool has a capacity of 300 people, so if we were looking at about a 50-percent capacity restriction, we’d be down to about 150 people. Then if you have to for good reason practice social distancing at six feet, with our limited space, that 150 is probably further reduced down to about 75. I think I saw one of the restaurants that said the 50-percent, once you factor in the social distancing, it’s down to 37 percent compared to the normal operating capacity.”Flory, who made his comments at last night’s meeting of the City Council, said even if the restrictions on swimming pools were lifted next week, the earliest preparations could be finished to open the aquatic center would be mid-June. == Clear Lake City Hall will reopen to the public today with normal business hours. Only two customers at a time will be allowed to enter City Hall. Visitors should enter the building using the single front door and exit out the double doors. Additionally visitors are encouraged to wear face masks and staff will routinely clean countertops. The Clear Lake Library fully reopened yesterday to the public with reduced hours of Monday to Friday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. People are asked to wear masks and are limited to one hour a day at the library. Children must be accompanied by a parent.