From the Director, June 2021: ARPA – We’re here to help. (And a thought on developing housing…)

Chris Campany

As we all learn more about how the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding can be used by towns, we’re here to help make sense of it all along with our colleagues at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, the region’s regional development corporation. We’ll be able to have one-on-one conversations with towns, and will be hosting workshops to address subjects that towns will likely have in common.

One subject we hear A LOT about from many towns is the desire to have more housing, and not just any housing. What we’re hearing is you want more housing that is affordable built in your community – housing for younger people (including your friends and children and grandchildren), for older people who want to downsize, for employees (“I can’t hire anyone because they can’t find a place to live.”), and for new residents. We’re hearing about the need for housing for all.

We’re going to partner with the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust to have a discussion within the region about what it takes to make housing beyond custom built homes possible. Spoiler alert! Development of affordable housing at any meaningful scale depends upon the existence of community water and wastewater infrastructure. There’s no way around it. It’s a foundational requirement (pun kinda intended). In its absence it’s virtually impossible to build housing at a scale that pencils out financially to meet the budget of developers, builders, and renters or buyers alike. This infrastructure is also necessary so that housing can be located where it makes sense. These days, that means in walking distance to things like the post office, groceries, a place to eat, and a bank or ATM. All the better if there’s also entertainment, green space or parks, lodging, and other amenities nearby. And having more people living near these things means a customer base to make them viable and sustainable, which benefits everyone. Without basic infrastructure in your community, you’re not going to be able to develop housing at a significant scale. If you’re not willing or able to have the infrastructure discussion, you’re really not willing or able to have the housing discussion. Sorry for the tough love, but it’s true. It’s one of those sometimes hard but necessary discussions a community needs to have if you are serious about housing development. I’ll note here that if you’ve already got the infrastructure, we’re happy to help you review your zoning and subdivision bylaws to see if they promote or deter housing development.

So as you think about how the ARPA funding is best used within your community – this once in a generation influx of funding – I hope you’ll think about your community’s needs now and into the future, and how to leverage the ARPA funding to make it go as far as possible. For some needs or projects, it may make sense to engage with your neighboring towns. Whatever you're considering, we're here to help you with your deliberations, including inter-municipal discussions. And unlike the CARES Act funding, you have time. You need to spend your ARPA funds by December 31, 2024. Please let me know how we can help (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; (802) 257-4547 x106).

Last Updated: 08 October 2021
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