From the Deputy Publisher: Home Work | From the Publisher | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » From the Publisher

From the Deputy Publisher: Home Work

By

Green Mountain Student Co-op circa August 1998 - CATHY RESMER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Cathy Resmer ©️ Seven Days
  • Green Mountain Student Co-op circa August 1998

Vermont employers desperately seeking workers are often just as desperate to find them housing. A lack of options is causing some candidates to turn down job offers, Anne Wallace Allen reports in this week's cover story, part of Seven Days' yearlong "Locked Out" series about Vermont's housing crisis.

I'm glad I never had to make that choice. After graduating from college in 1997, I relocated to Burlington to run a campaign office for the Sierra Club. I had just a few days to prepare for the move and didn't know anyone in town. No matter. On day two, I saw a flyer advertising a room at the now defunct Green Mountain Student Co-op.

Within a week, I had my own bedroom. I shared the living room, kitchen and bathrooms with 13 housemates — and a guy living out of a VW bus in the backyard. The rent: $200 a month.

It was the perfect setup for a 22-year-old newcomer. I ended up making lifelong friends through the co-op, including my wife, Ann-Elise.

Today's new arrivals are "lucky" to pay upwards of $1,300 a month for studios that are just a little bigger than my first room in Burlington.

That's forcing employers to get into the house-hunting business. Allen chronicles their methods: pumping employees and business contacts for leads; designating staff "house-finders" for new recruits; working with real estate agents to secure apartments before they hit the market; and buying or building accommodations themselves.

Seven Days has felt the same pinch. About 10 years ago, Ann-Elise and I started renting a room in our Winooski home to various staffers. For $350 a month, they got a ground-floor bedroom — furnished with a futon — with its own bathroom, as well as use of our kitchen, living room, washer and dryer. My family of four slept on the second floor.

Former Seven Days staff writer Paul Heintz, now managing editor of VTDigger.org, was our first tenant. Heintz was living in California and needed an affordable place in the Burlington area ASAP. He stayed with us for a few months.

Ann-Elise and I loved hosting him; it was a throwback to our co-op days. We'd sometimes eat meals together, have late-night conversations in the kitchen or play games with the kids. After Paul left, we took in several other staffers. Some needed a temporary place to live; others commuted from remote parts of the state and wanted a Burlington-area crash pad a couple of nights a week.

As our kids got older, Ann-Elise and I took over the spare room for ourselves, but lately we've been talking about building a small apartment in our yard. It could house the kids when they're older, our parents or more Seven Dayzers.

As a next-generation owner of the company, I recognize that we need to keep the talent pipeline flowing, free of obstructions. Fingers crossed that we can find some systemic solutions to the housing shortage. I've only got so much room on my lot.

Paula Routly is on vacation.