Valleys and their waters can be found in every corner of the greater Upper Valley region (region), with most flowing into the Connecticut River. This landscape forms many unique pockets that are home to our diverse communities, including resort towns, rural lands, and employment and population centers. To capture a degree of this diversity, Keys to the Valley divided municipalities into two types based on population: smaller and larger communities (Figure 1). The smaller communities include those with populations less than 5,000, some of which have substantial village centers. The larger communities represent regional centers and those with populations more than 5,000.
This snapshot has been divided into four major sections:
Data forms a foundation for understanding the region’s housing challenges that helps inform the region’s continued work to better our homes for all. To many, these trends will not be a surprise and feel increasingly urgent with the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The housing shortage is tighter than ever and homes are becoming increasingly out of reach for many. We have strived to include initial impacts of the pandemic here; however, many are still uncertain. See the data appendix for a breakdown of selected datasets by town and Regional Planning Commission. Through our research in data and stories, Keys to the Valley has identified six major types of homes the region needs that will be highlighted, among others throughout – emergency housing; homes affordable for all incomes; homes with supportive services; homes with access to internet, public transit and walkable destinations; accessible homes; and smaller homes (Figure 2).
Keys to the Valley attributes the persistence of the region’s housing challenges to a mix of barriers. Many of these barriers have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no consensus on which barriers have the biggest impact, although some do stand out, as highlighted by our public opinion survey. Further, it is agreed that action is needed on multiple barriers to tackle the problem. The most prominent barriers include:
High cost of land
High cost of construction, both in labor and materials
Limited number of housing developers and building trades workforce
Lack of financing for construction and renovation
Homes available are not affordable to many household incomes
In-migration of higher household incomes
Local regulatory barriers and community opposition
State regulatory barriers
Given the scale and persistence of these housing challenges in our communities and the region, it is becoming apparent that the housing market struggles to address these challenges on its own. Local, regional, and statewide governments and non-profit partners have a significant and vital role to play in enabling and delivering improved and affordable home options for residents. Our region must stay informed, in communication, and adaptable as we work to better understand and address the serious challenges we face. The region should continue to monitor the condition, affordability, and availability of homes in the region, as well as the housing market. In particular the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other future shocks such as climate change.