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From the Publisher: Homing Instinct


Published June 16, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

  • © Dmitriy Os Ivanov | Dreamstime

We finally got some rain in Vermont, and I was reminded of the lovely sound it makes on my house. No matter how hard it comes down, I know I'll be dry — a luxury that I came to appreciate in my outdoorsy youth. It's awful waking up wet and cold, with all of your stuff sodden, realizing "normal" people will likely view you with suspicion and be less than eager to help you dry off, warm up or regroup.

What's worse is experiencing it every day — and not as a result of a long-distance hike or a three-month bike tour. I try to remember that misery, and picture it being permanent, when I'm safe and warm inside and it's inhospitable out.

If health care is a human right, so is a roof. Most Vermonters seem to agree on that — at least in theory. Awash in federal dollars, the legislature just voted to spend $190 million on statewide affordable housing over the next three years. Paradoxically, checkout time is imminent for hundreds of homeless Vermonters who have been lodged in motels, on the state's dime, for the duration of the pandemic. The costly program is ending before a single new unit has been built to accommodate them.

Where will they go? Chelsea Edgar asked around and shares her findings in this week's cover story, "Kicked to the Curb." Not surprisingly, most of these vulnerable individuals will probably end up living outside, in cars, or in other unsanitary and dangerous situations. A large number of them live with mental illness, addiction, posttraumatic stress and other complex disorders.

It's an unintended coincidence that the summer issue of Nest, Seven Days' quarterly home, design and real estate supplement, is inserted in this paper. In keeping with the season, it has a "backyard" theme, featuring creative chicken coops, tiny houses and accessory dwelling units that are delightful to behold. Some of those structures serve as comfortable living spaces, and cities like Burlington could make it easier to build more of them.

The term "affordable housing" generally applies to low-income renters and house hunters, but there's a dearth of it for working Vermonters of all stripes looking to upgrade in this red-hot real estate market.

Anecdotes abound. The last one I heard was a property in Lincoln listed at $475,000. Buyer A offered $575,000 — $100,000 over the asking price. Buyer B swept in and got it for $650,000. People are waiving inspections, contingencies and other buyer protections to gain any advantage in these bidding wars.

In some cases, the buyers are out-of-state pandemic refugees moving in with money that our communities desperately need. But that's small comfort to those who can't afford a home.

If you've got one, be grateful.

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