The size of a home and amount of land it is on, in addition to its location, greatly affects the affordability of the home. Common issues that impact affordable home availability in the region include:
- The region’s housing stock is old. Many houses are not weatherized and are energy inefficient. Also, many contain health hazards, such as lead based paint.
- The existing housing stock includes many very large homes.
- Many new homes built in the past two decades are not located within community centers and require access to a reliable personal vehicle for transportation.
- Older residents who choose to “age-in-place” need services to stay in their homes or want small, single-level homes in their community which are in short supply.
- Homes that are for sale at $250,000 or less are in high demand, but there is a limited supply.
- During the COVID pandemic it was common for homeowners to make their vacation homes their household’s primary residence. In addition, out-of-state buyers purchased available homes, greatly reducing the supply.
A single-detached house (often referred to as a single-family dwelling or simply a house) is a structure for habitation by one household that provides complete independent living facilities, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
Accessory dwelling (sometimes referred to as an accessory dwelling unit or granny flat) is a secondary but independent housing unit located inside of, or on the same lot as, a single-family home. Accessory dwellings have the potential of serving as a significant source of affordable homes for the region. However, few have been created to date. Potential strategies to encourage accessory dwellings include:
- Allowing the owner to occupy either the primary home or accessory home, which may change over time.
- Allowing the accessory home to be either attached or detached to the primary home.
- Relaxing size limitations for the accessory home, especially where the primary home is small.
- Making it easier for homeowners to design, permit, finance and construct an accessory home.
- Helping new landlords with legal considerations, such as leases and screening tenants.
Duplex (two-family dwelling) is a structure designed and built for habitation by two households each in a unit that provides complete independent living facilities, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. Each unit has a separate entrance. Often, duplex units are located next to each other (side-by-side), but they can also be vertically stacked. Single-family homes are commonly converted into duplexes. Common issues to consider include:
- Zoning regulations often make duplexes subject to higher levels of review.
- Many of the region’s large, older homes could be converted to duplexes, providing income for the owner and a new affordable rental to help address the region’s needs.
A multi-family dwelling is a structure or part of a structure for habitation by three or more households, each in a unit that provides complete independent living facilities including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
In some zoning regulations, these are limited to 3-5 units, or sometimes this category is broken into subsets, such as triplex (three independent living facilities) or quadplex (four independent living facilities). Such structures can also often look like a larger, rambling home, or even be made from an existing large single- family home. Under this regulatory environment, apartment buildings, which typically have no limit on the number of units, make up an additional category. This is a good idea as it provides for more streamlined permitting review for smaller multi-family dwellings.
Mixed-use buildings have several uses within one building. A vertical mixed-use building is the most common type, especially within village settings. The uses can vary but commonly they include retail or professional offices on the street level, with apartments above. Mixed-use buildings can be a good option when rehabilitating or converting older buildings in community centers.
Manufactured home (also known as mobile home) is built to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) and displays a red certification label on the exterior of each transportable section. Manufactured homes are built in the controlled environment of a manufacturing plant and are transported in one or more sections on a permanent chassis. They are often classified as single or double-wide. While their construction methods are different, a double-wide manufactured home looks very similar to a ‘stick-built’ or modular ranch.
Manufactured homes, whether on an individual parcel or in a manufactured home park, are an important form of affordable housing for the region. As Figures 6 and 7 shows, manufactured homes can look very attractive, contrary to how they are sometimes perceived.
Manufactured home park (mobile home park) is any property with three or more manufactured homes or manufactured home lots. (There may be limited exceptions for seasonal parks and housing for farm employees.) As discussed above, manufactured homes are an important form of affordable housing. Manufactured home parks can often accommodate many units per acre (often 4-10 units/acre), making them some of the densest development in much of the region.
Tiny home communities are becoming more prevalent around the country. In many cases, they would be subject to local approval as a manufactured home park or campground, depending on the tenure.
Modular house is essentially the same as a single-detached home, except that the house was constructed in components in a factory and assembled on-site. Some benefits of modular houses are that components are built in a climate-controlled environment, a home can generally be built faster than stick-built onsite construction, pricing is fixed, and scheduling is consistent. Modular construction can be used to develop multi-family dwellings as well. Modular homes are typically much more robustly constructed than manufactured homes. Cranes are used to hoist the home or pieces of a home onto the site. Vermod, based in Wilder, makes high performance, energy efficient modular homes (example in Figure 10)
Boarding house (rooming house) is a structure that provides longer-term accommodations, generally consisting of a private bedroom and shared common space. A boarding house may include meals, housekeeping and/or laundry services. Such facilities are helpful tohouse college interns, students, traveling nurses, construction workers, single, persons, and the elderly who need low-cost housing and have very limited options in their price range.
Homesharing is exactly what it sounds like; where two or more people share a home together. Homesharing is when a homeowner offers a private bedroom and shared common space in exchange for rent, help around the home or a combination of the two. The term is both informal, as well as a formal program called "HomeShare" that vets and matches possible owners and co-habitants. There is no picture here, because homesharing can happen in any type of home.
The Mount Ascutney Hospital Housing Working Group is actively working on a homesharing program. Housing is a social determinant of health and a primary concern for the hospital’s service area. Because building new homes is challenging, the working group has decided to focus on creating new units from vacant bedroom space that already exists in the community. Homesharing can provide rental income and/or assistance with household tasks that may help people age-in-place. Homeshare Vermont or the homesharing program in Woodstock are examples of successful homesharing programs that can serve as models elsewhere.
Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. A cohousing project could involve a central, shared kitchen and community room, which could allow for smaller, lower-cost housing units.
Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland, Vermont has 17 housing units, a mix of apartments, duplexes, and single-detached homes, and is centered around a working farm. Bristol Village Cohousing is an example of 14 households clustered around shared green space and a community building within a walkable village center.
According to the Cohousing Association of the United States, senior cohousing is one of the fastest growing types of cohousing.
Bungalow court (or cottage court) is a small group of free-standing homes arranged close together around a central open space, or court. Entrances for each unit are from the shared court, which fills the function of a backyard and is an important community feature. Parking is usually along the street or located to the rear of the homes.
Tiny homes are fully-equipped, free-standing houses that are typically between 100 and 400 square feet in size. They come in two forms; those on wheels and those on a foundation. One reason for the popularity of tiny homes is the high cost of construction materials. Money saved on construction materials may allow someone to afford nicer designs and construction details.
Tiny house communities are becoming more prevalent in many parts of the country. They are essentially manufactured home parks, just with tiny houses instead of traditional manufactured homes.
Tiny houses are also being employed as a way to address homelessness. For example, A Tiny Home for Good is a small organization that builds tiny homes on vacant lots in Syracuse, NY. They rent the tiny homes to individuals experiencing homelessness and provide additional support services.
Common regulatory issues with tiny houses include:
Housing with Supportive Services is a combination of housing and flexible services for individuals and families, who are struggling, with minimal conditions for receiving assistance. This approach recognizes that a person’s ability to find and keep their home is influenced by many factors in addition to income, such as access to food, transportation, counseling, or recovery care. Depending on the structure of the local program, supportive housing clients may live together in a building or neighborhood, or independently in apartments or single-family homes that are integrated into the wider community. Housing with supportive services has consistently proven effective at helping people achieve housing stability and avoid crisis situations. In so doing, it helps to prevent overburdening of shelters, hospitals, and other publicly-funded response services.
This type of housing includes supportive housing programs which are legally required to meet affordability targets. Clients usually pay no more than 30% of their income toward rent, and there’s no time limit on tenancy.
Short-term rental is an accessory use of a dwelling to provide short-term guest accommodations, usually for a few days or up to a few weeks at a time. Many are contracted through Airbnb, VRBO or similar platforms. Short-term rentals can provide income for homeowners. Conversion of long-term rentals to short-term rentals has reduced the availability of housing options particularly for employees in tourist-based economies, such as in Ludlow. There are also issues with building code requirements, noise and other nuisance-related issues with the use of short-term rentals.
Townhouses are small-to medium-sized attached dwellings, usually 2-3 stories tall with adjacent units are placed side-by-side. Entries are on the narrow side of the unit, which face the street and avoid garages. As discussed in the Zoning Guide for Vermont Neighborhoods, townhouses are not common historically in Vermont. However, they are popular for of new development, and they can provide multiple smaller units on smaller parcels of land.
Live/work unit is a multi-story building, often within a village, that includes one dwelling unit above or behind a fire-separated, non-residential ground floor space. The flexible non-residential space usually has a taller height and store frontage, and can accommodate a range of non-residential uses. The nonresidential and residential units typically have separate street entrances. This is similar to a mixed-use building, except a live/work unit is limited to only two units and mixed-use usually has more.