Monday, October 17, 2016

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


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