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CityPlace Burlington Plans Updated Once Again

Although construction has yet to begin, progress continues to be made by the local development group now in charge of the long-stalled CityPlace Burlington project.  As part of a request to use $275,000 in federal HOME Investment grant money, the group unveiled new plans for an eight-story affordable housing building to be located at 130 Bank Street.

In partnership with Champlain Housing Trust, this stand-alone building is a departure from the earlier concept that called for affordable housing units to be included in the two 10-story towers that will flank each end of proposed project.  Brian Pine, director of the city’s Community & Economic Development Office (CEDO), spoke positively about the modified plans saying, “This is very positive, this is certainly greater progress in at least this part of the project coming to fruition, and I think that bodes well for the whole project.”

With an important construction deadline looming on September 30th, the city is actively exploring the possibility of extending the deadline to allow the project team additional time to finalize their plans.  The city’s optimism towards reaching a mutually agreeable path forward was also echoed by Mayor Miro Weinberger who was quoted as saying “While this project, like any major development, still faces challenges, the new ownership team has made more progress in the last four months than in the prior four years.” 

It is likely that another major announcement will be made before the looming deadline at the end of the month.  For more information, check out the full article on Seven Days Magazine…

CityPlace Developers Move Toward Building Affordable Housing on Vacant Site | SevenDaysVT.com

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  We will continue to update this ongoing story as new information is released…

Changes to Vermont's Lead Control EMP Program

an image of a teal door with a gold key

Rental property owners across Vermont recently received an email from the Vermont Department of Health regarding changes to the “Essential Maintenance Practices” (EMP) that are set to go into effect this coming October 1st.  As part of the State’s new Regulations for Lead Control, the program will now be called “Inspection, Repair and Cleaning Practices” (IRC) and will require additional certifications for those looking to certify and/or repair properties in accordance with existing EMP compliance guidelines.

Designed to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children living in rental housing built prior to 1978, the EMP program requires applicable property owners/managers to complete annual inspections (and necessary repairs) and register a compliance statement with the State.  Up to this point, property owners and managers who attended a state-provided training course were allowed to both “self-certify” and make repairs to their properties in order to obtain EMP compliance.

The biggest changes to the program include a new training course for self-certification and further limits who exactly is able to perform repairs on properties that need paint repairs.  Below is an excerpt from the State of VT’s email detailing the new guidelines…

  • You will still be able to use your EMP certificate to perform IRCs (except for repairs) for 5 years from the date you took the EMP training. After that, you will need to take the new IRC training to receive an updated certificate number.If your EMP certificate is older than 5 years, you have until October 1, 2023 to update your EMP certificate to an IRC certificate.The IRC certificate will need to be renewed every 5 years.Learn more about updating your certificate here: www.healthvermont.gov/IRC-training.
  • You will no longer be able to perform paint repair of one square foot or more per interior room or exterior surface on pre-1978 rental housing and child care facilities with only an EMP or IRC certificate. Repairs of these areas need to be performed by someone who is RRPM licensed or UCCO certified as described below.

Starting on October 1, Vermont will be taking over the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) regulations.  They will be called the Vermont Renovation, Repair, Painting and Maintenance (RRPM) regulations. The Health Department will oversee compliance with these regulations and will license individuals and firms that perform renovation, repair, painting, and maintenance work. For the most part, the new RRPM regulations are the same as the federal RRP regulations. However, there are some ways that the RRPM regulations are more restrictive.  To read more about the RRPM regulations and learn how to become RRPM licensed, visit the ALRP RRPM webpage: www.healthvermont.gov/RRPM.

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  As the top-selling multi-family and rental property real estate Team in the State of Vermont, our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information, and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and profitable experience. Contact us today to learn more about our above and beyond approach to buying or selling rental properties in Vermont.      

Vermont's Increasing Population

A covered bridge in Vermont with Fall Foliage

Many experienced real estate agents in Vermont, including those on our Team, will tell you that the past 2+ years have been unlike anything they have ever seen in their careers. 

Once Governor Phil Scott’s COVID-caused hard stop of all real estate transactions was lifted on April 20th, 2020, the real estate market has been characterized by unprecedented buyer demand in the form of multiple offers, cash deals with little to no contingencies and property value appreciation at rates nearly double that of local norms. 

Several local media sources published anecdotal accounts from Realtors all over the state stating that an influx of out-of-state buyers were suddenly bidding on Vermont property, increasing buyer competition and driving up prices.  Nevertheless, there was little data available to support the trend that Vermont was finally reversing the long-standing trend of negative net migration and a declining population.       

However, a recent article published on VTDigger.com asserts that the state of Vermont has welcomed nearly 5,000 new residents during the calendar year of 2020.  Citing a report published by the United States Census Bureau, the article suggests that an increase in remote workers and “climate change refugees” are two major forces driving the surge in population.  While there was no mention of whether or not a similar trend occurred in 2021, our local MLS statistics would imply another net increase is likely.

Click HERE to read the full article on VTDigger.com.   

Having been named as the top state to live in for the second year in a row by CNBC, Vermont continues to receive national attention for those looking for a change to their current living situation and lifestyle. Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  As the top-selling real estate Team in the State of Vermont, our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience. Contact us today to learn more about our above and beyond approach to buying or selling property in Vermont.      

CityPlace Burlington Phase 2 Plans Revealed

An artistic rendering of CityPlace Burlington Phase 2 from Church Street

(Photo Credit: Seven Days)

In our latest blog post from earlier this month, we provided an update on the status of the long-stalled CityPlace Burlington Project; more specifically, the 3-acre parcel of land which was previously home to the Burlington Town Center Mall.  With that first phase of development now under complete control by local developers, many wondered what was to come to the surrounding buildings which remained co-owned by the original project developer, Don Sinex.

That subject was addressed during a recent meeting of the Ward 2 & 3 Neighborhood Planning Assembly, where attendees were treated to a sneak peak of the second phase of the project which includes the redevelopment of the remaining, intact parts of the old mall surrounding “the pit” as well as the building that used to be home to L.L. Bean. 

The concepts unveiled included a four-story, 15-unit apartment building with frontage on Church Street as well as a 12-story, 240-room hotel with an entrance that would be located on the newly built section of St. Paul Street.  Additionally, the plans also include two new restaurant venues (one of the first floor and another on the roof), underground parking for approximately 100 cars, multiple ground level retail spaces and a pedestrian walkway connecting Church Street to the proposed Phase 1 building located in between St. Paul and Pine Street. 

a schematic design of CityPlace Burlington Phase 2

(Photo Credit: Seven Days)

It was mentioned during the developer’s presentation that they expect to apply for the applicable zoning permits sometime in the near future.  The final piece of the project, Phase 3, will involve the redevelopment of the old Macy’s building which is currently the temporary home to Burlington High School.  With the uncertainty of when a new school facility will be ready to welcome students, the focus remains on beginning construction of phase 1 while at the same time applying for permits for the proposed concepts of phase 2.  

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  We will continue to update this ongoing story as new information is released…

Local Developers Now in Full Control of CityPlace Burlington

Photo by Alexandre Silberman/VTDigger

UPDATE:  Over eight years since he first unveiled the plans to redevelop the Burlington Town Center mall and five years since the old mall was demolished, developer Don Sinex has sold his remaining 50% share of the 3-acre parcel known acrimoniously as “the pit” to three local business partners who now have full ownership of the proposed CityPlace building site.

The local group consisting of Dave Farrington, Al Senecal and Scott Ireland, are now in talks to settle an outstanding lawsuit which many see as the final roadblock to acquiring the financing necessary for construction to finally begin.  The group, as well as Mayor Miro Weinberger, are hopeful that the new change in ownership represents a “major step” towards the long-delayed project from becoming a reality.

The timing of this deal is crucial, as an important development deadline is rapidly approaching this coming September.  As part of the development agreement, if construction begins before September 1st, City provided financing funds would be available to use for the rebuilding of two streets that were previously obstructed by the former mall building.  If construction has not been initiated by the deadline, the cost of rebuilding the roads falls directly onto the developers.  Although they have already approached the City about an extension to the deadline, City officials have declined to consider the request until “substantial progress” has been made toward breaking ground.

While the recent deal means that he is no longer associated with the land that will eventually be home to the 10-story CityPlace complex, Sinex does still share ownership of the intact remnants of the former mall with the same local partnership group.  No plans for those spaces have been officially announced as of yet; however, according to Sinex, there is a possibility that concepts and ideas could be discussed at upcoming Ward 2 & 3 neighborhood planning assembly meetings  For now, Farrington is optimistic that the project will proceed as planned, “We’re going to work.  Burlington’s going to see some action down there.”  

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  We will continue to update this ongoing story as new information is released…

Burlington Receives Green Light from Governor for Carbon Pricing Framework

A photo of a home being built with a wooden frame

In 2018, the City of Burlington revealed one of the nation’s most ambitious climate change policies by creating the City’s Net Zero Energy by 2030 initiative.  Nearly one year later and in collaboration with Synapse Energy Economics and the Resource Systems Group, City officials presented the “Net Zero Energy Roadmap” to the leadership team at Burlington Electric Department projecting three future scenarios based on their research and analysis of the City’s current energy consumption.    

During this 2019 presentation, the mission statement of the program was defined as “reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from the heating and ground transportation sectors by the year 2030”.  Included in the executive summary were multiple bullet points highlighting the “paradigm shift” necessary in order for their ambitious goals to be met.  Both cultural and behavioral changes were highlighted including an increased focus and investment in public transportation, a rethinking of historic preservation efforts, as well as the “rapid and widespread electrification of space heating, water heating, and transportation to completely cease fossil fuel energy consumption.”

2021 Update to the Roadmap            

As part of a 2021 update to the Net Zero Energy Roadmap, officials reported a slight decrease in the City’s natural gas usage but not at the pace needed to reach the net zero goal by 2030.  In response to the findings of the report, the Mayor and City Council agreed that a suite of additional policies would need to be implemented in order to stay on track for the 2030 goal.  One such policy recommended would be to give the City the ability to regulate thermal energy systems on existing residential and commercial buildings that use fossil fuel heating sources. 

Before long however, it was found that this type of regulation on existing buildings was not allowable in accordance with the current City Charter.  Consequently, a change to the City Charter was proposed and on March 2nd, 2021, Burlington voters approved the amendment to allow for City regulation of existing residential and commercial buildings. 

Charter Change Approved

Over one year later, Governor Phil Scott signed the proposed charter change and sent it back to the City for further consideration.  The amended bill read…

“The City Council shall have power to regulate thermal energy systems in residential and commercial buildings, including assessing carbon impact or alternative compliance payments, for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the City. No assessment of carbon impact or alternative compliance payment shall be imposed unless previously authorized by a majority of the legal voters of the City voting on the question at an annual or special City meeting duly warned for that purpose.”

Now back in the hands of the municipal government, the City has requested that the Burlington Electric Department work in collaboration with relevant City officials/departments to develop a set of policy proposals to accelerate the decarbonization of buildings in Burlington.  The City Council has requested that BED’s proposals are delivered to the Council by no later than July 18th, 2022.  As was emphasized by Governor Scott, any and all proposed fees/policy changes would then be subjected to approval by Burlington residents with a majority approval necessary for changes to be enacted. 

Carbon Impact of Alternative Compliance Payments

As the City waits to hear back from BED on possible proposals, one carbon-cutting concept that has already been implemented globally is carbon pricing.  According to the United Nations Committee on Climate Change, the goal of Carbon Pricing is to create a fee / price signal that regulates and reduces GHG emissions while at the same time providing a strong financial case for shifting investments away from high-emission fossil-fuels based technology towards cleaner energy. 

Also known as carbon tax, the idea of “Carbon Pricing” was suggested to be the single most-effective policy change to combat global warming by experts & supporters of the United Nations Paris Agreement.  With the defined goal of “taxing carbon to fight climate change without undermining economic prosperity”, the theory of carbon pricing can be broken down into four key principles…

  1. Carbon emissions should be taxed across fossil fuels in proportion to carbon content, with the tax imposed “upstream” in the distribution chain.
  2. Carbon taxes should start low so individuals and institutions have time to adjust, but then rise substantially and briskly on a pre-set trajectory that imparts stable expectations to investors, consumers and governments.
  3. Some carbon tax revenue should be used to offset unfair burdens to lower-income households.
  4. Subsidies that reward extraction and use of carbon-intensive energy sources should be eliminated.

According to Earth.org, there are currently 27 countries throughout the world that already have some form of carbon tax implemented.  Included are Argentina, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Korea, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and all 27 countries in the European Union.  In the United States however, not a single state has adopted a similar strategy with Burlington Vermont being one of the pioneers in the country’s fight against fossil fuel heating sources.

Local Issues with the Local Experts

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  We will continue to update this ongoing story as new information is released…

Act 250 Reform Gaining Momentum

A scenic image of Vermont in Fall

With a lot of local media attention focused on the planning & development of much-needed affordable housing, one key obstacle continues to be Vermont’s notorious 50+ year-old Land Use and Development law, Act 250.  However, a new bill that has just passed a key vote in the House intends to modernize Act 250 by streamlining development in designated “neighborhood development areas” while at the same time providing new guidance to towns with no zoning or subdivision regulations.

Originally intended to help control the sprawl that came as a result of a quickly expanding ski industry, Act 250 has long been a thorn in the side to real estate developers looking build on residential, commercial, and industrial land throughout the state.  Increased costs, major timeline delays and outdated policies are examples of the negative sentiments associated with the Act 250 process. 

While speaking on the House floor, Rep. Seth Bongartz, D-Manchester, stated “This bill is a step toward the kind of deep systemic rethinking in which we need to engage as we prepare to meet the dual challenges of dramatic climate change and a growing population.”

Additionally, representatives from numerous environmental groups across the state (including Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Land Trust, Audubon Vermont, Nature Conservancy VT Chapter and others) have championed the proposed bill and are urging lawmakers to enact this legislation as soon as possible.  

As part of his veto letter sent to lawmakers with regards to the failed “Just Cause Eviction” charter change in Burlington, Governor Phil Scott said that he and his administration are focused on promoting more development of new housing inventory rather than trying to assert control over housing options that already exist.

Having passed a vote in the House, the bill now advances to the Senate before it can arrive on the Governor’s desk for final approval.  For more information, check out the article on VTDigger, “With an eye toward housing, Vermont House passes bill to update Act 250” or click HERE to read the S.234 bill in it’s entirety.

Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  Contact us today to receive a complimentary market analysis on your property or to discuss how you can partner with the Lipkin Audette Team to help achieve all of your real estate goals.     

What Does the Surge in Home Equity Mean for You?

An illustration of houses next to a chart with increasing results moving up and to the right

Buoyed by low mortgage rates and unprecedented buyer demand, home values across the United States increased at double-digit rates over the past 2 years.  As a result, most homeowners saw the equity in their homes increase as well, producing a positive impact on their overall financial situation.  Encouragingly, Vermont was no exception to this trend. According to a report published by the real estate research company ATTOM, Vermont has the second-highest equity-rich housing in the United States, just behind Idaho.

A 2021 U.S Home Equity & Underwater Report showed that in the fourth quarter of 2021, 41.9% of mortgaged residential properties in the U.S. were considered equity-rich. Even better, only one in thirty-two mortgaged homes were seriously believed to be underwater in the fourth quarter of last year!  Strong equity gains can serve as a built-in buffer against unexpected financial hardships or can be proactively used to improve one’s home or investment portfolio. 

Interested in learning more?  Here are four proven strategies that you can use to benefit from this recent surge in home equity values…

How Can a Surge in Home Equity Benefit Homeowners?

Cash-Out Refinance

If you’re not really considering selling your home, you can use the rising property values to your advantage in many ways—one of which is a cash-out refinance. This allows you to refinance into a new mortgage for more than what you owe and receive the difference back in cash.  From there, you can use the money in any way you want such as paying off your student loans or credit card debts to save hundreds or thousands of dollars in financed interest.

Fund Home Renovations

Another smart option is to invest in home improvement projects to make it more comfortable for you and your family and at the same time, increase your home’s value. Whether you want to renovate your kitchen and bathrooms, repaint your house, or upgrade your home appliances, you can always borrow from yourself by taking out a home equity loan to finance additions, improvements and renovations.

Add to Your Retirement Income

If you’re 63 or older, you can tap into your home equity by applying for a reverse mortgage. This type of loan will provide you with access to tax-free income that you can use to cover expenses during your retirement years.  Unlike a traditional mortgage, a reverse mortgage does not require the borrower to make regular monthly payments and all interest costs are simply added to the loan balance which is then paid off when you sell the home, move out or pass away.       

Invest in a New Home

Though mortgage rates are going up, they are still considerably lower than historical averages. This, along with a red-hot real estate industry, means that your property is more likely to sell for a higher price.  Now is a great time to consider leveraging your new-found equity by selling your property with an experienced Realtor.  Increased equity can enable sellers to have money left over after paying off their existing mortgages, which can then be used as the down payment on a new, more expensive property.

Is Now the Time to Cash Out or Invest in More Real Estate?

The answer to this question depends on your priorities and financial situation.  Since 1985, we’ve helped thousands of clients buy and sell real estate in Northwest Vermont.  Our goal is to provide you with the local insight, information and resources necessary to make your purchase and/or sale a comfortable, informed and enjoyable experience.  Contact us today to receive a complimentary market analysis on your property or to discuss how you can partner with the Lipkin Audette Team to help achieve all of your real estate goals.

 

Bad Housing Policy?

A sign that reads

A new housing bill, sponsored by Burlington Rep. Brian Cina, would greatly inhibit the ability for Vermont rental property owners to sell their property. The title of the bill summarizes the proposal as "an act relating to creating tenant rights to purchase an apartment building."  Although the bills indicates that the intention is create more affordable housing options for Vermont residents, the negative consequences it would have on rental property owners is substantial!

In Burlington, which contains the largest number of rental units in the state, landlords have already been burdened with recent changes including increased tax liability from the citywide tax reassessment and "just-cause" eviction legislation, which would severely obstruct the ability to regulate tenants lease-end conditions.

Bill H.640 seeks to provide tenants in apartment buildings with 3 or more units the right to purchase the property from their landlord upon receiving notification that the building is going to be listed for sale.  During this 45-day option period, property owners would be unable to accept offers from other interested parties until the tenants have declined the purchase option or the option period ends.  If the leaseholders decide they are interested, an additional 120-day timeframe is created whereas the owners would be unable to accept an offer other than from the majority of tenants exercising the purchase option.

The proposed legislation would greatly impact a landlord's ability to market and sell their property in a fair and timely manner.  For property owners already dealing with recent changes that have negatively affected their business, bill H.640 would only create more problems than it seeks to address.

Interested in getting started with investing in real estate or wondering how this many affect your rental property or portfolio?  For the most up-to-date information on current market trends, advanced analytics and in-depth local insight give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.

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    Predicting Mortgage Rates for Spring 2022 and Beyond

    On the heels of a record-breaking year for many in the real estate industry, there is a lot of speculation on what buyers and sellers should expect for the Spring market and beyond.  As is usually the case, numerous analysts are looking no further than interest rates when predicting how the market will behave in the coming months.  While interest rates may seem like a simple way to forecast future market conditions, the many factors currently shaping those rates are seemingly more complex than they have ever been.

    In a recent article published by Inman News, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner examines the effect current events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and inflation in the United States could have on interest rates throughout the rest of 2022.  Click HERE to read the full article (subscription required).

    In summary, Mr. Gardner projects interest rates to continue to rise but not to a point that would create significant problems for those looking to buy or sell this year.  While it’s unrealistic to think that the record-low rates of late 2020 / early 2021 will return, it’s important to remember that even modest increases from the high 2%’s will yield rates that from a historical context, are still appealing to buyers taking into account the recent rapid rise in property values. 

    Interested in buying / selling real estate in Northwest Vermont or wondering how this may affect your investment property or portfolio?  For the most up-to-date information on current market trends, advanced analytics and in-depth local insight give us a call at (802) 846-8800 or email us at Team@LipkinAudette.com.