Monday, October 17, 2016

Sinex Mall Proposal--No Housing or Benefit to the Very Low Income

There is not a single unit of Sinex 54 "affordable" units for the "poor and disenfranchised" as he Mayor Weinberger has sometimes referred within the Sinex Mall proposal.  All 54 Sinex units are moderate income with rent caps of $1,000 monthly for a one-bedroom and $1,200 for a two bedroom.

Burlington now has about one in three non-student households living in “affordable units”--Burlington Housing Authority with most of the “deep subsidy” affordable units which reach down to $0 income and the bulk of affordables, non-profit rentals with “shallow subsidy” primarily by Champlain Hosing Trust and Cathedral.  Added to these are the “inclusionary zoning housing” like that proposed in the Sinex project. They represent at most today about 8% of all affordable units and Sinex units (some would likely be built with or with the Mall as proposed) about, potentially, just 2 percent of the affordable units in the City—again those Sinex would be shallow subsidy for moderate income residents. Actually the percentage of affordable units in Burlington is very remarkable, about 2,500 units.  This total is reached when you include Burlington Colege (Erik Farrell's Cambrian Rise, 675 units) project and Ireland's 220 units on Grove Street now renting, Bayberry Commons.

We all support a responsible mixed Mall redevelopment--so some affordable units surely will be developed on the Mall property. This analysis does not include inclusionary from the 62 Bove project units now moving forward on Pearl Street.

In terms of sheer numbers of housing units being added in Burlington the Sinex overall project of 274 unit remains a small part of the expansion of housing begun in 2013 with over half the 2,000 expansion of rental housing—equal to 20% of the 10,000 rental units in Burlington in the 2010 census—more than enough to effect a dampening impact on market rents. Already the vacancy rate has moved toward healthy status and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable futgure as over half the 2,000 units under development are in place today. Student population is in a downward trend and both UVM and Champlain College are adding substantial numbers of beds in housing coming online within 24 months.

Vacancy in Burlington now reaches about 3 percent in the healthy range with more than 226 rental vacancies found in an October “snapshot” rental survey. There is no basis for claiming in any way shape or manner the Sinex project addresses any housing problem in Burlington at all and mostly--over 200 units--provides $1,600 to $2,000 monthly rentals on up (Sinex said at a New North End meeting he is not sure the units will be rentals or condos).  Talk to any small landlord they will tell you how loose the market is and how it is taking longer and longer to rent their units. 


Two major types of housing are needed: (1) more senior housing (0 in Sinex); and (2) very low income vouchers for both families and seniors (again, none in the Sinex project).  This was the message from U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Castro and the speakers when he visited and opened Bright Street.  You will hear from COVE which advocates for seniors and low income housing proponents seeking support for a 1% (about $2 a night) lodging charge to support a very low income housing program by the State reaching upwards of 1,000 low income families and households. 

Stop listening to the misleading material form the City administration

And please join CLC in supporting a "better" Town Center, a responsible City development approach and reject the massive Sinex complex. 

"Snapshot Survey" of Available Burlington Rentals October 2016

October 2016

Snapshot of Burlington Rental Vacancies Reflects Healthy Condition and Plentiful Rental Availabilities, Surprising Trends

--Burlington rental vacancy rate very likely in “healthy” range
--226 rentals listed (equals 2.3% of 2010 total rental units)
--one rental offered with first month “free”
--about 250 vacant student “beds” in 4-6 bedroom rentals

An early October “snapshot” of Burlngton available rental vacancies reveals a plentiful availability of one bedroom and larger rentals and a likely vacancy rate within the “healthy” 3 to 5% range.

A check on selected websites identified 226 available to rent. The 226 along represent 2.3% vacancy based on the 2010 Census of almost 10,000 rental housing units in the City. The 2.3% is only an indicator, not reflective of the actual, higher, rate. For example, for Bissonette Properties which has a considerable number of rentals only three were tabulated (one each for three bedroom categories) and for the S. D. Ireland Grove Street project which is open and continually finishing sections of its 220 unit project, just a single one bedroom and two bedroom were included in the tabulations. Not all websites with listings were tabulated, though most of the popular ones, such as Craig's List and are included. One would expect the Burlington rental market well into the lower end of the 3-5% vacancy rate, considered “healthy” by housing analysts.

The Burlington housing market which neared a vacancy rate of as little as one percent in the 2011-2013 period clearly began to loosen considerably in 2015, according to local landlords who in some cases saw calls from prospective renters from one or more calls daily dropping to one a week or so. The most recent two private semi-annual Chittenden County vacancy surveys found an average of 2.5% vacancy through early this year and predicted the rate would climb over 3.0% later in 2016. This snapshot survey adds some evidence supporting that prediction.

Table 1 outlines the tabulation from observations October 7 of rental availabilities by bedroom size with price ranges and median provided. Table 2 provides similar data from the July survey. The October survey takes place after the annual student migration back to college at UVM and Champlain College which together have 15,000 enrolled.

Median Rents

The most significant rental number, the median rent for a one-bedroom, remained constant at $1,050 for both surveys almost the exact number of available units (37 in October, 38 in July). The two-bedroom median rent did increase 11% from $1,350 in July to $1,500 in October—but 70 units were tabulated in October versus only 43 in July so one would expect several units were available in October at the July median number.

Table 1: Burlngton Vacant Available Rentals October 2016: by Bedroom Size— Total Rentals, Price Range, and Median Rent

226 Apartments 10/07/2016

Summary              Total                          $ Range                           $ Median

0 BR                      1                              800                                      800
1 BR                      37                            750-1,500                         1,050

2 BR                      70                             850-2,250                         1,500

3 BR                      62                           1,050-2,250                        2,160

4 BR+                    56                            1,000-5,000                       3,300

Table 2: Burlngton Vacant Available Rentals July 2016: by Bedroom Size— Total Rentals, Price Range, and Median Rent

129 Apartments

Summary              Total                          $ Range                           $ Median

0 BR                     14                              700-1,400                            968
1 BR                      38                             700-1,900                         1,050

2 BR                      43                             950-2,600                         1,350

3 BR                      26                             799-2,595                         1,825

4 BR+                      8                             875-2,900                         2,400

The three-bedroom and four+-bedroom increased medians really are not comparable to July as 108 were tabulated in October versus 34 in July. Further, a large number of rentals were single family homes which likely skewed upward the median rents on both bedroom groups.

Overall Trends

The surveys here take place in a period of dynamic change in the Burlington rental housing market which totaled 9,800 total rental units (occupied and vacant available) in the 2010 Census. Starting in 2013 after rental units added averaging mid-double digits a year, through this summer a total of over 2,000 rentals were added or in late process of development—almost 700 per year. Over half the units are built or under construction with the S. D. Ireland Bayberry on Grove Street, 220 units, the largest with some completed and occupied and others coming on line regularly. The largest project, Cambrian Rise, 675 units at former Diocesan lands sold by Burlington College, is late in the development process. These 2,000 rental units moving through development along represent a 20% increase in the rental inventory as of 2010.

“Dormitory Housing” Trend

A very surprising finding in the October survey is the number 56 rentals of 4-6 bedrooms totaling about 250 beds—the type of housing based on the units tabulated rented primarily to the college student population. It is fair to say much of these larger rentals are “dormitory” housing rented by college students. The UVM student population peaked in 2010 and Champlain College expects its resident student body of about 2,200 to remain constant while growing its online programming. Given the current vacancies, it is well known the major new dormitory building on the UVM campus set to be occupied next fall will also house about 300 students now housed mostly in Burlington rentals. This likely means another 70-90 rental vacancies will occur by mid-2017 from this change alone.

Student Population Choosing Smaller Rentals?

Another trend—yet to be tested fully—may be students taking advantage of a larger housing supply to reside in 2 or 3 bedroom units rather than 4-6 bedroom arrangements. It is obviously easier and more satisfying for students to make arrangements for a smaller “home share” situation as well as less competition for common areas (kitchens, living rooms, etc.). And pricing increase per bedroom from 2, to 3, to 4 and over bedroom units is about $300 to $400 per bedroom. Until the last year or so the availability of any sized apartment was constrained. Now there appears to be a considerable available vacant units except in the efficiency category.


Burlington with its housing production expansion since 2013 with over 2,000 rentals built, being built or well into the development process has well exceeded its share of a Regional Housing Initiative aimed adding 3,500 housing units in a five year period. And, Burlington is remarkable in providing “affordable” rental housing (affordable including both Public Housing, Section 8 vouchers, and non-profit housing by Champlain Housing Trust and Cathedral). The 2,500 affordable existing or contained in the 2,000 housing units referenced above insure that about 30% of non-student rental households in Burlington reside in “affordable” homes.

The demographics of Chittenden County for 2010-2030 show in population projections a slight decline In those aged under 65 years and a doubling of those aged over 65—senior population growing from 17,400 in 2010 to 36,500 in 2030. This is an increase of almost 900 seniors yearly.

The prime housing needs for Burlington? First and foremost, age restricted housing for the growing senior population. Second, the need is for very low income housing assistance for s somewhat stable non-senior family population and for seniors. The Sinex Mall provides no senior housing and no deep subsidy units benefiting the very low income.

Burlington Town Center

This analysis excludes likely additional housing in a Burlngton Town Center development. The Coalition for a Livable City campaign for a “Better Town Center” advocates for a project within current zoning but with increased proportions of affordable housing units, probably very near the Sinex proposal of 54 units. Overall, total housing units might be reduced to perhaps 150. Clearly there is no need for student housing in newly developed housing in the downtown or elsewhere in the City at this time as both UVM and Champlain College continue to make strides to sharply reduce their dependance on the City housing to supply the needs of their students.

Market for Market Rate Housing?

Clearly the Burlington housing market has changed radically in the past two years. There are questions. In certain housing categories—larger bedroom sizes, for example—the City may be facing a housing glut. Certainly the top one percent will always be served by the “market”--has been (see Lake Street, Westlake, etc., developments). At this point, just adding more units of housing with a plentiful supply (and already set to grow further) of market housing becomes a low priority. And, placing ongoing efforts at more non-profit housing (in all its many varieties) and finding new State and local sources to provide deep subsidies for low income households becomes the major priority for all age groups.

Tony Redington

Burlington "Inclusionary Zoning" Affordable Housing--A Preliminary Analysis


Here are three arbitrarily selected examples of households and maximum rents (rent cap) which would be offered by a landlord for an inclusionary unit of housing. There is cap on how low the rent can be set, and presumably landlords would be somewhat flexible in terms of moving rents lower than the cap rental rate towards the objective of no more than 30% of income by a household for rent (including all utilities). The three households are: (1) a two person household near the income maximum who would pay less than 30% of income under the rent cap, actually 25%; (2) a single individual making $15 an hour who would pay almost 40% of income; and (3) a single parent or couple with one child who occupying a 2 bedroom apartment and in this case paying at the rent cap 37% of income for housing.

Maximum Incomes to Qualify for “Affordable” Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Units

1 Person: $58,800 2 Person $67,200 3 Person $75,600 4 Person $84,000 ….8 Person $110,900

Three different households

(1) Couple with income $50,000 (needs 1 bedroom apartment)
(2) Single person with $31,200 income ($15 an hour) (applies to studio or 1 bedroom apartment)
(3) Single parent or couple with one child $40,000 income (needs 2 bedroom apartment)

Eligible in terms of household income at 100% Burlington median income or less?
(1) Yes ; (2) Yes; (3) Yes

Cap on rent (rent maximum)

For 1 bedroom

Rent cap is 65% of median rent for household size, then multiplied by 0.3 (30% of income to gross rent including all utilities). In this case rent cap calculated, 1.5 persons assumed with 65% set at: 0.65 x [(1 person median income $58,800 plus 2 person median income of $67,200 divided by 2) x (30% or 0.3) or (58,800+67200/2) x 0.3 ] or 0.65 x $63,000 x 0.3 or $12,285 rent maximum yearly ($1,024 monthly). This 1 bedroom rent cap applies to examples (1) and (2)

For 2 bedroom, this analysis assumes 3 persons ($75,600 income) with calculation of rent cap: (Income estimate using 3 person income x 0.65 times 0.3) or ($75,000 x 0.65 x 0.3) or $14,625 yearly or $1,229 monthly. The 2 bedroom rent cap applies in case 

Percent of income paid for rental at rent cap
  1. Couple with $50,000 income $1,024 a month rent 24.6% of income
  2. Single person with $31,200 income
($15 an hour wage) $1,024 monthly rent 39.4% of income.
(3) Single parent or couple with one child
$40,000 income, $1,219 a month rent 36.9% of income

Burlington Housing Analysis--August 2016


August 2016


The current and past data and estimates here outline Burlington the current rental housing market, the rapid market growth and change which began in 2013 and continues today, trends and needs mostly related to deep subsidy housing for families and seniors. Among findings and estimates here:
  1. About one-in-four non-student households in Burlington reside today in “affordable housing”
  2. An expansion of the rental housing inventory continuing since mid-2013 adds an additional 2,000+ predominantly rental units, equal to over 20% of total rental units in the 2010 Census of 9,800
  3. The “inclusionary zoning” (IZ) inventory today of affordable housing units, 82, amounts to about 3% of the current inventory of over 2,000 “affordable” housing units in the City (with the addition of the Farrell Cambrian Rise housing at the former Burlngton College land Burlington with its 168 IZ units, the total of affordable housing units in Burlington nears 2,500)
  4. Except Burlington, there are no “inclusionary zoning” (IZ) affordable units in Chittenden County
  5. Two major needs in the housing market remain, both requiring deep subsidy assistance: (a) seniors who can in most cases no longer afford their existing housing and (b) support for very low income, non-senior individuals and families including the homeless and persons with a disability
  6. Average rental vacancy rate over the past year (2 private surveys) reveals a vacancy figure of 2.5% with prediction of a rate within the “healthy range” of 3-5% by year end
  7. Market rate rents for new apartments would likely exceed $1,400 for 1-bedroom and$1,600 for a 2-bedroom unit  [Note offering rents at new Bayberry Commons, October 2016: 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom $2,150--Sinex project market rents likely higher]. 

The last two semi-annual vacancy rate surveys found a 2.5% vacancy rate for Chittenden County predicted to be in the “healthy” 3-5% range by year end. A “snapshot” survey of Burlington rental vacancies in July found 129 available apartments, a 1.3% vacancy rate in a survey that is an indicator not a vacancy metric. Burlington landlords first identified a drop in demand as housing supply increased last year and they say the drop in demand has continued since. [October  2016 "snapshot survey" found 225 rentals available.]

With the majority of an estimated over 2,000 mostly rental housing unit growth since mid-2013 built, under construction or near construction start (about half built or under construction) the 9,800 rental units in the 2010 Census clearly expands by about 20% within the next year or so. Providing a sufficient supply of housing in Burlington clearly can be described as a rousing success.

After adjusting for college students in private rentals—1,500 apartments total estimate—a fair estimate: one in four Burlington non-student rental households now reside in the “affordable housing” an inventory nearing 2,500 built, under construction or well into the permittingBurlingt process. Up to the Burlington College Farrell Cambrian Rise project, “inclusionary zoning” moderate income housing amounted to single digits percentage of affordable housing—about 3% today and with Cambrian Rise increasing to about 10% of the total “affordable” units in the City.

This analysis and data below includes no market or affordable units from a Town Center Mall redevelopment.

  1. U.S. Census 2010


A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home or trailer, a group of rooms, or a single room occupied as a separate living quarters...”

Owner Occupied Housing Units 6,553 Vacancy Rate 1.2% Renter Occupied Housing Units 9,556 Vacancy Rate 2.5%

Family households (2 or more persons related by blood or marriage) 6,561
Non-family households 9,558 (single persons or 2-or-more unrelated individuals)

Total vacant units 778—2.0 Overall vacancy rate Seasonal/held for occasional use housing units 250

  1. Burlington Affordable Housing Units in Discrete Projects

--generally excludes inclusionary zoning (IZ) units
--data from CEDO (Burlington Community Economic and Development Office) through City Fiscal Year 2015 ending June 30, 2015
--units include moderate income affordable and units affordable to very low to no income
--three primary owners: Burlington Housing Authority (BHA), Cathedral Housing, and Champlain Housing Trust (CHT)

a. Special Needs Housing in projects less than 20 units:
b. Senior
c. General

BHA 134

Other 983

  1. Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Housing Units

--affordable down to at about 80% of median income
--80% median income Burlington Metro 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 1 person 46,000
    1. person 52,600
    2. person 59,150
  1. Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) Housing Units (concluded)

Chittenden County other than Burlington

0 IZ Units

Burlington Through Early July 2016

--14 projects 2010-2016 (CEDO data)
--total units 82: rental 74 and owner 8
--privately administered 63; nonprofit/private-nonprofit partner administered 19
--rental total units (affordable and market) in 12 projects 464
--32 units to 2010-2012; 50 units 2013-to July 2016 Affordable Non-profit IZ units

Rental IZ units 74

Total IZ units 82

  1. Housing Units in Burlington built, under development, well along in approval 2013 to date

--CEDO reported units July 1, 2013 through July 7, 2016: 1,301 housing units
--Farrell Burlington College, Cambrian Rise 675 units (168 IZ)
--Bright Street Coop (CHT) 40 units (all affordable)
Total Burlington Housing Units (vast majority rental): built, under construction or well into permit process 2,016

  1. Section 8 Vouchers Administered by Burlington Housing Authority

--about 568 vouchers where household can choose to live with a considerable proportion in units already in the “affordable inventory.” For purposes of analysis those with BHA housing vouchers choosing to live in private market apartments will be assumed to total 100.

6. Proportion of Burlington Rental Inventory Occupied by Students

There are about 15,000 students now at the two remaining colleges in Burlington, UVM and Champlain College. Student population at UVM peaked in 2010 at just over 13,000, then declined about 700 students as of the past school year. Currently a major dormitory construction project at UVM to be completed for 2017-2018 school year will absorb students temporarily housed in a hotel and other facilities as well as drawing about 300 students from housing in Burlington, freeing up about 100 private market units in Burlington.

For purposes of analysis, 1,500 units of the Burlington rental inventory will be assumed to be occupied by students, a constantly rotating population over about a two-to-three year period. Eagles Landing, a Champlain College student housing project technically in construction will likely also draw some student from the private rental market.

    7. The total “affordable housing” units in Burlington

The definition of “affordable housing” really is two fold: (1) mostly non-profit and inclusionary zoning units which reach to about the 80% of median household income (“moderate income” units) and (2) “full subsidy” assistance whereby the household pays a maximum of 30% of income, as little as $0 monthly for a household with no income. The federal programs of traditional “Public Housing” and Section 8 are the most prevalent type of full subsidy units. At the Burlington Housing Authority (BHA) there are long waiting lists. A household not in certain priority categories can wait several years before receiving a deep rental subsidy apartment. For Section 8 “voucher” units where a household is free to find any apartment in the area which is priced at the median rent or lower (rent schedules for every housing market [“fair market rent”] are determined and updated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)). For example, the current median “fair market rent” for a Burlington area 2-bedroom apartment is $1,356.00 monthly.

The median household income in Vermont was about $55,000 in 2014, about 7% or $4,000 drop from 2004. The federal maximum income for moderate income eligibility for a two- person household is $52,600—that figure also indicates the income which an inclusionary zoning unit must serve with 30% of income allocated to rent.

The total number of “affordable housing units” in Burlington is comprised of four components:
(1) the 2,071 identified in the CEDO “affordable inventory” outlined above in discrete project through June 30, 2014; (2) an estimated 100 Section 8 vouchers with households who have chosen to live in private rental market units in the City; (3) inclusionary zoning (IZ) units totaling 82 tabulated by CEDO; and (4) the estimated 208 affordable units contained in the Bright Street Coop and Burlington College Cambrian Rise project (40 at Bright Street and 168 IZ units at Burlington College Cambrian Rise—not yet entered into the CEDO tabulation).

These four categories of “affordable housing” total 2,461.

    8. Burlington Housing Needs There remain two intractable housing needs today in Burlington. First, for seniors whose population is doubling from 2010-2030 the quantitative need is obvious versus the slight decline in the County in the same period for the under-65 population. The waiting list at Cathedral Housing—500 at this time—though driven mostly by affordability issues for seniors also reflects other strands of need—social isolation, transportation dependence, and growing needs for supplemental services in a continuum which ranges from independent living to assisted living to other more extensive support services. Generally those with disabilities—who are by law eligible for senior housing assistance—also are growing in numbers with many of the same issues of seniors. Second, for non-seniors Vermont the nation during the Great Recession saw at least numbers if not percentages of low income households and child poverty remain with affordable housing first and foremost the needs. Increasingly the homeless numbers have include families with children. While housing subsidies for the middle class have grown since 2000, the federal housing support (now four times higher for the middle class than for low income) has remained relatively unchanged. Both the federal government and Vermont State government must begin to address the deep housing housing unit assistant needs which totally lie outside the categories of IZ units and moderate income non-profit development. Burlington through the leadership of Mayor Weinberger and the City Council has in a few short years addressed to a large extent necessary increases in the number of housing units to erase scarcity and addressed to an important extent moderate income housing—but deep housing assistance in the affordable category remain elusive and a State and federal challenge which City and County leadership must join to change. Finally, the University of Vermont and Champlain College, though perhaps tardy, moved to reduce their contribution to low vacancy rates and the pressure of lack of on-campus housing on the Burlington and regional housing markets.
The demographic downturn statewide and larger Northeast Region suggests continued relief to the City and County housing market in this regard.

Final Note: Because of the ending of significant federal housing assistance programs at the turn of the century the absolute need for “housing first” for many purposes—some examples: release from the correctional system, minimizing hospital stays, transitional housing for persons with mental and physical handicap, homeless families, victims of spousal abuse, etc.--has led to human service institutions creating a multi-faceted system to support housing subsidy using non-housing program sources. This area highlights the lack of provision of needed housing resources in past history—the federal government and now increasingly State programs of housing. An excellent outline of housing problems, programs and needs can be found in the report this year released by the Governors' Committee on Pathways Out of Poverty which can be accessed online.

Tony Redington


Colorado Group Against Highway Safety?

While checking google alerts on press roundabout construction activity one finds some where one cannot stop oneself from commenting.  It is particularly poignant living in Chittenden County and Burlington with numberless busy streets which are unsafe for all modes. 

Drive underway to stop Redlands [CO] roundabout

The United States once #1 in highway safety collapsed to #19 recently and we record 12,000 excess deaths (of over 30,000 fatalities a year)--19th was before the highest jump, 7%, in U.S. highway fatalities last year, the greatest increase recorded in a half century. Pedestrians and bicycle fatalities increased at a greater rate last year and for several years before compared to vehicle occupant deaths. The roundabout, the safety belt of intersections cuts serious and fatal injuries about 90%--the U.S. lags most nations in adopting modern roundabout technology (built with stone age materials). Finally, this year the Obama administration took action--it requires States and metropolitan agencies (MPOs) to record current car occupant fatalities/serious injuries and separately the rate for walk bike rates per mile of travel. The state highway agencies and MPOs then must set a target for reducing serious/fatal injury rates and then measure their results--this is a must to continue to receive federal highway dollars. Sweden, #1 i highway safety, has more roundabouts now than traffic signals and moves to reduce their traffic signal numbers another 40%. You can imagine my view of a petition to stop a roundabout being installed for increased safety.

Tony Redington @TonyRVT08