Waterbury Residents Advocate for More Affordable Homes
With a 0% vacancy rate and a median single family home sales price of more than $430,000 Waterbury residents overwhelmingly supported the creation of a new apartment building with 26 permanently affordable homes.
Photo courtesy Warren Miller/Waterbury Roundabout.
POPULATION GROWTH SINCE 2000
POPULATION GROWTH IN WATERBURY (SINCE 2010)
Age 20 - 29
Age 30 - 39
2022 RENTAL MARKET IN WATERBURY
vacant units for rent
of Waterbury's older adults who are rent-burdened
Source: Downstreet’s 2022 housing needs assessment.
Like almost every town in Vermont, Waterbury needs more housing.
For town leaders trying to address a near-zero vacancy rate, a public parking lot in the heart of the village’s historic downtown seemed an ideal location for a new residential building. Since 2019, the lot has compensated for parking spaces that became temporarily unavailable during a major reconstruction project on Main Street. When work was completed in 2021, the Edward Farrar Utility District’s (EFUD) Board of Commissioners approached Downstreet to request a proposal for the development of affordable apartments on the lot.
“This property was once the home of the oldest son of Waterbury’s first settler and later owned by the municipality for nearly 40 years,” explained Skip Flanders, Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the EFUD. “We wanted the property to continue in service to Waterbury citizens by meeting one of the highest priority needs in the Waterbury Town plan: housing.”
Downstreet proposed the construction of a two-and-a-half-story building with 24-26 affordable apartment rentals. The Board of Commissioners was happy with the proposal, which aligned well with the findings of a 2022 housing study that recommended: “Town Planning Staff should recruit developers who will construct housing intended for year-round residential and prioritize development of studio, one- and two-bedroom homes.”
However, to move forward with the project, the sale of the parcel needed to be approved by the EFUD residents. After a Waterbury Roundabout article on the topic sparked conversations about the vote, a group of area residents quickly mobilized a campaign in favor of the project to quell resistance from a very small but vocal group of opponents. Local businesses hung posters in their storefronts declaring their support, neighbors placed yard signs urging a “yes” vote, and a group of volunteers knocked on nearly every door in the Utility District to get the word out about the vote and share information about the proposal.
“Without additional housing in Waterbury, there’s really nothing stopping the continuing rent increases that are pricing people out of town,” said Waterbury resident Mal Culberston. “We needed to get the word out about why Waterbury needs more housing right now.”
After several public meetings to discuss the planned Downstreet development, the vote finally took place on October 24th. Nearly 300 voters attended, a historic turnout for an EFUD meeting, and the 208-69 result was overwhelmingly in favor of the project.
Waterbury resident and business owner Katya D’Angelo said, “As a community that sits within commuting distance of large employment centers and is a substantial employment hub in itself, Waterbury needs to have decent workforce housing options that regular people can actually afford. The town has really blossomed into a vibrant and attractive place in which to live and this housing project will help us sustain that.”
The EFUD Board of Commissioners was very pleased with the outcome, stating, “Downstreet’s reputation of developing and maintaining three affordable housing projects in Waterbury and their ability to see that the property continues in affordability in perpetuity means this project will be a big win for everyone.”
All photos courtesy Waterbury Roundabout photographer Warren Miller.