Governor Phil Scott today delivered his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly, opening his eighth legislative session as Governor.
Many of the lawmakers in that Assembly oppose any changes to Act 250, a restrictive regulatory policy that has held back housing development for over 50 years.
Vermont's legislators are not required to disclose where they live, or whether they own their homes, but many of the most staunch defenders of antiquated regulations live in homes, often with large acreage, and remain warm and comfortable when they go home each night while the rest of the state struggles to house thousands of its residents.
Should home owning Vermont lawmakers who object to helping others do the same recuse themselves on the issue of Act 250?
Below are the key points Governor Scott made about this issue in his address.
Last year I said, “we won’t be able to make the most of this opportunity if we don’t address the decades-old regulations holding us back.” While we took some steps, I know many of you would agree, we need to do a lot more.
The fact is, Act 250 did exactly what it was intended to do. It slowed down growth, and in some cases, stopped it altogether. But it was enacted at a time when we were growing way too fast. Today we face a different reality – one where families desperately need homes, and communities need reinvestment.
There’s an expression: “If nothing changes, then nothing will really change.” In our case, that means if nothing changes, things will continue to get worse.
We’ve committed the funds, and laid the groundwork, but if we don’t truly address Act 250, we won’t solve our housing crisis.
Every single one of you, and the people you represent, need a voice in this debate. This issue is too important and too consequential for two committees, and a couple of special interest groups, to control the outcome.
If we make commonsense improvements, we can give young families the decent, affordable homes they need. We can offer seniors a chance to enjoy retirement, without the burden of a large home they can’t afford. And we can put homeless Vermonters in real homes, not over-priced hotel rooms we can’t afford.
By jumpstarting housing for working families, we can revitalize communities, refill our schools, and make our neighborhoods more inviting in all 14 counties. We can help solve the challenges we face – funding healthcare and education, climate change mitigation, I.T. infrastructure, and so much more.
Housing is key, and it’s something we can do right now. So let’s work together and get more families in homes faster, and at a cost they can afford.