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Vermont Has a Plan for Creating More Housing

The governor signs legislation to revamp local and statewide zoning codes

Three photos showing new and old homes in Vermont

Clockwise from left: Photos by Zoë Mueller, Alex Davis and Richard Amore

A sampling of Missing Missing Housing-style Vermont homes in Montpelier (left and top right). Houses located in the Bristol Village Cohousing community (lower right).

In early June 2023, a month before Vermont and its state capital of Montpelier became overwhelmed by heavy rains and flash flooding, Governor Phil Scott signed the Housing Opportunities Made for Everyone (or HOME) Act, a bill that will help communities throughout the state expand housing availability, affordability and housing-type options. 

Free Guide About Zoning

Vermont’s housing reform law was kickstarted by work the state engaged in with the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). Learn about the collaboration and the benefits of implementing incremental, targeted zoning code changes by ordering or downloading Enabling Better Places: A Handbook for Improved Neighborhoods, a free publication by AARP and CNU.

AARP CNU Handbook for Improved Neighborhoods

Click on the image to learn about this 24-page photo- and information-filled publication and how to get it.

The new rules, which will be fully implemented by December 2024, are a key ingredient for meeting Vermont’s dire need for increased and updated housing, and especially housing that is affordable and suitable for both young and much older adults.

With 20.6 percent of the state’s population currently age 65 or older, Vermont is the nation’s third oldest state after Maine (21.8 percent) and Florida (20.6 percent). Rental housing prices can be very high, especially in locations such as the ski communities, where young workers are needed. (A one-bedroom apartment in Stowe, for instance, rents for $1,900 a month.)

By changing outdated state and local zoning codes to be more aligned with 21st century realities, the legislation acknowledges that the Vermont’s longstanding zoning regulations, land use policies and lengthy permitting processes haven’t been meeting the needs of residents.

“This bill creates opportunities to create new and more dense housing in the places we want it, rehab previously offline units, and reform our land and zoning laws, all of which will begin to address this housing crisis,” said Josh Hanford, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development.

The HOME Act opens doors to more housing production by focusing growth on areas where development already exists and makes sense, such as by allowing for higher density development in areas that are already equipped with sewer and municipal water service. (Rural regions that are dependent upon septic and well water systems are not suitable for increased housing and development.)

Among the housing issues addressed by the legislation:

PROBLEM: Large lot-size minimums (such as zoning codes that call for at least one-acre per single-family home) prevent the development of walkable, sustainable, all-incomes neighborhoods that can alleviate a housing shortage and jumpstart a local economy.

  • SOLUTION: The HOME Act requires five or more units per acre in areas served by water and sewer. Smaller homes better meet the needs of downsizing older adults and newly launching young adults. 

More about the HOME Act

"Vermont Housing Bill Becomes Law Easing Rules for Some New Construction Amid Home Shortage" (Vermont Public Radio)

"Governor Phil Scott Signs S-100 Housing Bill Bringing Regulatory Reforms" (

PROBLEM: Zoning codes that require an excessive amount of parking perpetuate sprawl, necessitate auto-oriented (and emission-heavy) transportation systems, and use land that could be used for housing.

  • SOLUTION: Since housing can be built in a way that is more conducive to safe walkability, the HOME Act reduces parking minimums to one-space per dwelling unit.

PROBLEM: Prior to the creation of zoning codes in the early 20th century, Vermont communities consisted of many different housing types on varying lot sizes, which enabled compact, walkable communities. Subsequent size mandates and limits on allowable uses have curtailed housing solutions such as mixed-use residential buildings and neighborhoods where homes and businesses can coexist.

  • SOLUTION: The HOME Act allows for the creation of duplex properties anywhere single-family homes are allowed and multiunit dwelling of up to four units in areas served by sewer and water. The legislation also allows for the development of up to 25 units in designated downtowns and villages, and it provides millions of dollars in subsidies to build more housing (including rental units) in areas located near schools, jobs, stores and recreation. In order to keep development in check, many of the new provisions will expire in 2026.

The measures add up to enable smaller, denser, Missing Middle-style homes and accessory dwelling units (or ADUs) that can make it easier for older Vermonters to downsize in walkable communities and live independently near friends and neighbors.

By pursuing zoning reform as an avenue to greater housing affordability — and more livable, walkable communities — Vermont joins states including Oregon, California, Virginia and Washington.

“Vermont’s tri-partisan legislation showcases what makes Vermont unique,” writes Amy Love Tomasso, planning coordinator for the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, in an article for the website Public Square. “As a pro-property and municipal rights state, Vermont is still a place where folks across the aisle can build bridges for the common good and are able to shift longstanding policy to be more equitable.”

Kelly Stoddard Poor is an associate state director of AARP Vermont

Page published August 2023

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