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Many Of Burlington's Young Professionals Are Unhappy With Their Housing, Survey Shows

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A new survey conducted by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce shows that while a sizeable portion of young professionals in Burlington own their homes, the majority are renters - and many are interested in buying, but can't afford it.

Many young professionals in the greater Burlington area aren't satisfied with their current housing situation, according to a survey conducted by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Last year, the Burlington Young Professionals group – an arm of the Chamber of Commerce – created the Young Professionals Advocacy Task Force. Its specific focus is housing issues in and around Burlington.

Katie Taylor, the chair of that task force, says one of its first steps was to conduct a survey to find out what young professionals thought about their housing.

"The results of our survey show that about half of young professionals are OK with where they are now," said Taylor. "And about half of young professionals are not."

With over 400 responses to the survey, the individuals ranged in ages 20 to 40.

While a sizeable portion of that group own their homes, the majority are renters. Almost all respondents between 20 and 25 rent, with home ownership increasing with older respondents.

Still, the survey found that a good portion of those in their 30s continue to rent. And for post-college renters, living in student neighborhoods where rents can be lower may not be attractive.

Alex Meyer, a member of the Burlington Young Professionals, is a native Vermonter who came home after several years out of state.

He works in the software industry and values some degree of quiet. "I will admit to having enjoyed college and living off-campus," said Meyer. "But at the same time, as somebody in the working world who has to get up early in the morning for work and do that, it doesn't fit with my lifestyle living directly next to that."

"I think there is a trend in national reporting, at least, that young professionals – millennials specifically – are not looking for home ownership. They don't want to be tied down, they want the flexibility of renting. And I don't know if that story is not telling the whole picture, or if people who come to Burlington are looking for something a little bit different." - Katie Taylor, chair of the Young Professionals Advocacy Task Force

After looking in Burlington, Meyer found the costs too prohibitive. He now lives with his brother in South Burlington.

The survey found that many of the younger respondents like the flexibility of renting, but a surprising number are interested in purchasing a home.

Katie Taylor says that's in contrast to what's been reported as a trend nationally.

"I think there is a trend in national reporting, at least, that young professionals – millennials specifically – are not looking for home ownership," explained Taylor. "They don't want to be tied down, they want the flexibility of renting. And I don't know if that story is not telling the whole picture, or if people who come to Burlington are looking for something a little bit different."

That's true for Meyer, who says saving up to buy a home is a priority.
 

Taylor says one of the initiatives she's working on is a first-time home buyers assistance program. It would provide a $5,000 interest-free loan to those eligible.

"A key consideration for me was that wherever I lived, I needed to be able to save to buy, or for a rainy day," he said. "That was really important. That's one of the reasons I'm not in Burlington, because I couldn't accomplish that in Burlington."

Of those in the 36-to-40 age range who rent their current residence and aren't thrilled with it, 93 percent indicated that they want to purchase a home but cannot afford it.

Taylor says one of the initiatives she's working on is a first-time home buyers assistance program. It would provide a $5,000 interest-free loan to those eligible.

"It would help those people who are getting close to being able to purchase a home, but maybe didn't realize how much closing costs were," Taylor said. "Or they feel like it would take them another year or two to save up the rest of their down payment."

Taylor says she hopes a bill creating that program will move forward at the Statehouse.

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