Letter to the editor: Tiny homes in Middlebury village part of the answer
I was pleased to read about the students who are advocating for building tiny houses to help address the affordable housing problem in Vermont.
One possible site could be the land adjacent to the police station along Otter Creek. About 15 years ago a group had proposed building more housing there, but withdrew plans after running into opposition when those plans were shared with the surrounding community. Residents of the nearby homes and condos had not been involved early enough in the process and their concerns were not addressed before the proposal was withdrawn. With better planning and inclusion, a more limited number of tiny houses might be more appropriate for the neighborhood. Such a location makes sense because it is in walking distance of downtown and would not contribute to sprawl on the edge of town.
As for addressing the increase in the homeless population in Vermont, I have often wondered why more government and community-supported shelters haven’t been built that would house a greater number of people in shared rooms. I have stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club huts along the trails in New Hampshire and those shelters have capacity for 40-plus people in bunk rooms consisting of double and sometimes triple bunk beds with shared bathrooms and dining area. With the hut system, individuals of any gender and families can be housed in the same rooms for short stays (typically of a week or less).
Typically, college-aged “croo” are seasonally employed to manage the huts and provide the shared meals. With Middlebury College in our community, there is no shortage of students and other young people looking for part-time jobs or volunteer opportunities. Given the affordable housing crisis, all options should be considered to keep people off the streets in safe housing protected from the weather.
The long term solution is more low-cost, long-term housing, including tiny housing villages, and structural changes that will help alleviate poverty.