Greensboro’s Housing Crisis isn’t New or Unique

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Recent conversations about potential development of Greensboro’s Town Hall by RuralEdge to create 20 residential rental apartments has drawn both strong support and criticism.

It’s an issue that is becoming divisive in a small town where people with differing opinions generally coexist peacefully.

This is not a new problem, either in Vermont or the US, but it is being exacerbated as income inequality has grown during the past 50 or so years. City refugees have amassed vast wealth and the pandemic has them looking for land, vacation homes and investment properties away from cities and suburbia.

The land and homes in northern Vermont are relatively inexpensive compared to city and suburban property.

What’s happening in Greensboro is also happening in Stowe, where inflated property prices have been driving workers in that resort town to find housing elsewhere for decades.

It’s happening in Cabot, where questions about whether the school should remain open have been on the ballot every few years lately.

And it’s happening in many other northern Vermont towns.

Even Hardwick area residential properties offer far more space than city dwellers are accustomed to and the housing pressure coming from people looking for an escape has sent prices rising beyond what most consider affordable.

Property on Caspian lake, considered expensive in recent decades by almost any standard, doesn’t begin to approach the cost of a Cape Cod waterfront retreat or a Malibu beach house.

Even so, since the pandemic, Caspian lakefront property seems to be increasing in value well beyond what had become the norm. One Greensboro lakefront property that recently sold for $1.9 million was “only” $450,000 when it sold just over 10 years ago.

It’s not likely that Greensboro, or even Vermont, can solve the problem of wealthy people looking to Vermont for country escapes and driving prices sky-high.

What does seem likely is that a RuralEdge project to develop Greensboro’s town hall building may be an effective start to creating affordable housing, or, as Mateo Kehler called it at a recent forum, “attainable housing.”

Paul Fixx

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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