Bossange: Need for 40,000 new homes a myth

….and so is report of 24,000 job openings, Smart Growth advocate says

by John Bossange

History is replete with myths and distortions that have driven unwise practices and policies, often resulting in tragic consequences. 

Wars in America were launched with lies about the USS Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and, of course, who can ever forget the lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Over time, those lies have been exposed and become historic myths.

John Bossange

Today in Vermont we are being fed three myths all playing out at once. If turned into practice and law, the combination of the three would be devastating to the iconic character and unique position of our state as a leader in protecting the environment.

  • Myth No. 1 centers on the recklessly trumpeted need to construct 40,000 new homes by the year 2030. 

Many have already debunked this inflated number by calling into question the new home estimates built with false assumptions categorized as “expected growth” (10,231 homes) and “pre-pandemic growth” (11,454 homes), totaling 21,685 new homes. 

All the current population forecasts indicate a very slow and modest population growth. Using state occupancy formulas, 21,685 new households translate to well over 50,000 new residents moving here within seven years. Under the best of circumstances, no demographer would support such a projection or myth.

Do we need more housing? Absolutely. But we need housing to return to our “normalized home vacancy rates” (11,023) to address our “homeless rates” (2,780) and to “replace destroyed homes” (2,570), making them habitable. By most projections, these three critical housing needs total 16,373 new homes, again not even close to the casually bantered myth of 40,000 new homes needed.

  • Myth No. 2 centers on the recent outcry of 24,000 job vacancies in Vermont. 

A close examination of that number reveals some important data. By reviewing the three largest employers in Vermont (the state government, the UVM Medical Center and affiliated hospitals, the University of Vermont and other colleges), one can find many vacancies that require some educational background, experience, or a specific high-level skill. For sure, we need these professional workers. They would be welcomed to our state. However, nowhere is there a need for 24,000.

For every “high-skill” job listed, there are at least as many vacancies for caregivers, receptionists, carpenters, laborers, building and grounds maintenance, prep and line cooks, bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, TSA airport positions, intake coordinators, night security officers, office assistants, et al, all important “service industry” positions central to an effective economy. Surely, these vacancies make up a substantial portion of the 24,000 figure. 

It follows then that we should not be building homes in anticipation of a great migration of out-of-staters to fill these “lower skill” positions when those who seek these positions can likely find this work in their own states. So in reality the job vacancies that would attract people to move to Vermont are considerably lower than 24,000. 

The real danger here is that the “24,000 job vacancy” myth feeds the “40,000 new homes needed” myth, creating a false sense of urgency. We’ll be fine for now if we recruit qualified candidates for highly skilled jobs, focus on improving the “normalized vacancies” and “replacement homes” in our housing stock, and at the same time, improve the wages and benefits offered to those who apply for jobs in our critical service industries.

  • Myth No. 3 continues to be advanced by advocates representing affordable housing needs and related building industries. 

Smart Growth principles should govern wherever we build, and nowhere is that more essential than when creating housing for those with modest resources. Without a car, these individuals and families need to be near public transportation and municipal services. This in turn means not building housing miles from city and village centers, isolating people from their workplace and daily needs.

Those who support the construction of new housing for everyone in city and village core locations and at the same time support conserving as much of our natural environment to deal with the climate crisis are not only being called elitist by some, but have also been accused of discriminating against those in need of housing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Promoting Smart Growth is not elitist or discriminatory. Smart Growth is an environmental imperative given our climate crisis and it’s fair and equitable to those who need affordable housing.

Saving the environment is obviously to everyone’s benefit. Taking the bold steps needed to mitigate the climate crisis belongs in the forefront of all policy and should be our top priority. That’s a necessity. We are all environmentalists now, no matter where we live. 

Nor is it discriminatory to build housing of all types away from those open fields, meadows and forests in need of immediate protection. That’s a necessity as well. It’s time for the name-calling and labeling to stop.

I remain hopeful that we can put these three myths behind us. There is no time to waste. Together we need to address Vermont’s housing concerns and job vacancies using responsible practices, accurate projections and at the same time protect our fragile and failing environment, which if developed any further, will make increasing our housing stock and filling job vacancies a dream lost in a very short space of time. 

Vermont’s iconic character and quality of life will be gone forever if we continue to promote these three myths and not expose them as distortions with tragic consequences. 

The author is a South Burlington resident and a retired middle school principal.

Categories: Commentary, Housing

9 replies »

  1. If the author can think critically enough to come up with this article, how is the author bamboozled by the climate change ideology?

    How does the author not know that it’s going to be used to bankrupt us and enact laws that remove our rights. You know like owning cows or land

    • You took my point.
      If we want to make Vermont cost competitive and attract or retain professionals to fill those critical jobs, we must stop the madness that the world is about to end AGAIN.
      We will bankrupt the state with our subsidies and regulations, and have no effect on climate change. All we will accomplish is great damage to our lovely state.

  2. “Smart Growth is an environmental imperative given our climate crisis and it’s fair and equitable to those who need affordable housing”. This is where I stopped reading. The climate is not in any crises. It’s May and my heat is still on some nights. This climate cult reminds me of a time they were burning people in the town square for being a witch and causing bad weather. The author had the right facts on jobs and housing then had to bring in the climate crises and had to incorporate the catch words, fair and equitable. I guess he forgot inclusion. I think we have a cultist mental crises.

  3. The comments on this chain are disturbing. Almost 70% of young people say that the future is frightening because of climate change and almost 40% don’t want to have children. How is it still possible to delude oneself to disregard and/or ignore this crisis?

  4. It is very revealing the number of people, who believe in the climate change deception and thievery scam, have absolutely no clue the petro dollar is dead and our financial system is about to collapse. US treasury bonds are being dumped globally and the auction houses for our bonds have no buyers. Hello? I heard a financial analyst opine the majority of Americans are financially ignorant, woefully gullible, and too uneducated (purposely?) to comprehend the financial disaster about to hit them broadside. I concur with his assessment. While our society is distracted with fakery and clownshows, the banksters and fraudsters are setting all up for the great rug pull of the century.

  5. Yea but if the problem is big enough only further funding and empowering our government can fix it. Thats the real takeaway.

  6. The housing “shortage” doesn’t exist. Instead there is excess speculation in housing. How many Vermonters own two, three or more houses? It is the same pattern across the country. Thousands of empty houses and apartments because interest rates and housing policies have encouraged speculation in housing.
    But higher interest rates and higher construction costs will solve this “shortage” because housing affordability will drop and construction costs rise.
    And “climate change” is communist nonsense.

  7. This article is extremely intelligent and help my mom interest until the author referenced the climate crisis. The climate crisis is manufactured via data manipulation. There are many respectable climate scientists who do not buy into the fear mongering and brainwashing on this issue. Dr. Bjorn Lombard, who works in the fields of environmental economics and political science, has stated that yes we need to protect the environment, but there is no pending climate catastrophe. He has referenced speaking to and aggregating UN climate data. He concluded that there is no emergency. Interestingly enough, the UN does not want input. There is a reason why the United Nations is making decisions independently with their stakeholders and partners, while excluding all others from the preferred mitigation plan. The reason is because the United Nations is using fear as a tool to nudge the public into supporting outcomes that give the United Nations and its stakeholders (preferred organizations) power over all facets of society via Environmental, Social and Governence (ESG) Policies.

  8. The author must never go out in Vt . If he did he would see the problems with small businesses getting help. Just look at your local restaurants they don’t have enough help to stay open during the week . Basing the job status on the biggest companies in Vt is laughable. Wake up and look around your theory is flawed

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