Missing Middle Zoning Reform Advances in the Vermont Legislature

The Vermont State Senate voted unanimously to approve legislation that would reduce barriers to more compact residential development. The Vermont House of Representatives is up next.

August 3, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Burlington Vermont

The scene in Burlington, Vermont. | Erika J Mitchell / Shutterstock

"Vermont is now proposing legislation that will make it easier to build compact housing types in downtowns, neighborhoods, and village centers throughout the state," according to an article by Rober Steuteville. 

The bill (S.237), has already cleared the State Senate with unanimous support, reports Steuteville, and would support missing middle housing types like multiplexes, ADUs, and small-lot units—in walkable places. 

"The legislation addresses specific barriers to more compact development—including lot sizes that make housing exclusive and unaffordable," explains Steuteville of S.237. 

Specifically, the bill would ban zoning laws that set minimum lots sizes greater than an eighth of an acre (5,400 square feet) where water and sewer service is available. It would also allow 2-unit dwellings on such lots. Where zoning laws specifically allow duplexes, quadraplexes would also be permitted. By loosening restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs), ADUs would be more practical to build. If property owners lease parking separately, the minimum parking requirements would be cut in half.

Steuteville's description of the current state of zoning in Vermont notes that the traditional development patterns cherished in the state's communities, all relatively small in population, have been rendered illegal by the status quo of zoning. The state is also dealing with rising housing costs. "The median price of a house in Vermont has risen rapidly since 2016 and now is $261,000," according to Zillow data cited by Steuteville in the article.

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