Study Spotlights Challenges of Finding Affordable Rental Housing

A new report reinforces what many New Englanders have known for years: that the region can be a difficult place to find rental housing, especially for young people or workers making minimum wage or just above.

“It’s something everyone my age kind of understands,” said Adam Ceely, a 24-year-old who graduated from the University of Vermont 18 months ago.

Ceely has a job he likes—making sails for boats—but to stay in the Burlington area on his budget, it took finding five roommates to get his rent under $500 a month.

“A single bedroom on my own—I kind of knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Ceely told necn.

The high cost of rental housing is a familiar challenge in Vermont.

A report released Thursday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition called the state the thirteenth most expensive in the nation for renters, with the problem most acute in the Burlington area.

The new report said full-time workers near Burlington would need to make $26.83 an hour to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment and utilities in order to have that housing cost be no more than thirty percent of their income.

The national number for that housing goal is $21.21, according to the report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The study also showed Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are on the list of the toughest 10 places when it comes to the gap between a renter’s average wage and the wage they’d need for what the report considers rent at fair market value.

“Things are not getting better,” said Erhard Mahnke of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “I think one of the side effects is that young people are unable to save, or have a lot of challenges saving for, say, their first home or for starting a family.”

Mahnke said he is optimistic, though, after the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, and Democratic leadership in the Vermont Legislature have all said affordable housing is a priority.

As for Adam Ceely, he said he is about to move to Rhode Island for a new job, and hopes his housing dollars go farther there.

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