Aiming to address the issue of affordable housing, Addison Housing Works held its annual fundraising event, Addison Housing Rocks in the town of Middlebury last Friday, Sept. 15.
Just beyond St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Main Street at Triangle Park, the event was a lively and informative evening for about 75 attendees.
“[The event] is bigger this year than it has ever been, and it's never been on the Green,” John Barstow, chair of the Addison Housing Works Board told The Campus. “I’m largely responsible for saying we need to get more exposure.”
At Friday’s event, Addison Housing Works unveiled their new name and slogan, “Affordable Homes, Strong Communities.” Formerly known as the Addison County Community Trust, the group elected to change its name to better reflect its chief goal: affordable housing, available for everyone who needs it.
A resident of Addison County for 32 years, Barstow has watched the housing crisis in Addison County develop to its current unsustainable state.
“We need people to know both what we do, and that we can’t do enough,” he said in reference to Addison Housing Works’ efforts.
Refreshments at the event were provided by three local businesses. Viva La Sabor, a women-led culinary collective from the heart of Addison Country, provided authentic and ethically sourced staples of Mexican cuisine, while the Pittsfield, Ma.-based Full Belly Food Truck offered a diverse array of Tex-Mex barbeque options and Adventure Dinner, a collaborative event company that travels the state of Vermont, provided a wide selection of beverages for the event, including local craft beers and cocktails.
Barstow expressed gratitude for the donations of local businesses to Addison Housing Works.
Addison Housing Works receives annual donations from businesses and firms in the area, without which the non-profit would not be able to offer its financial services to prospective owners and renters.
“I think more people need to understand how much local businesses support local nonprofits,” Jon Crystal, current community representative to the board and former chairman of Addison Housing Works, told The Campus.
Crystal offered more insight into the goals of both the Addison Housing Rocks event and Addison Housing Works as a whole.
A 20-year resident of Addison County and of the state of Vermont for over 50 years, Crystal also noted how the housing crisis has become a pressing issue. Before joining the Addison Housing Works Board about eight years ago, Crystal chaired the board of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, a multi-county organization that addresses housing and local social, environmental and racial justice issues.
“I’d love for the county and for the state as a whole to have a clear understanding of the issues around affordable housing,” he said. “There is a dearth of housing available at all income levels.”
Crystal explained that working for expanded housing opportunities is a constant battle, and one that requires commitment from all corners of the town, county and state. He also expressed his hope for more partnership with the college, given that the lack of affordable housing options in the area often forces potential faculty and staff to turn down job offers.
Addison Housing Works supports affordable housing renting and purchasing for residents in a number of ways, one of which being the shared equity grant program, which as of 2022 provided up to $75,000 in funds to potential homeowners through its Homeland Grants.
Functioning as a down payment, the grant is a stabilizing mechanism for a mortgage, making homes permanently more economical for residents who otherwise may not be able to afford buying a home.
Sharon Tierra, a resident of Shoreham, Vermontt. since 2005 and an attendee of Addison Housing Rocks, lives in a home purchased through the shared equity grant.
“We wouldn’t have been able to buy our house without the grant,” Tierra said. “Our mortgage is quite low.”
Addison County State Senator Ruth Hardy addressed the crowd at the event, emphasizing the importance of housing as a widespread issue and detailing some of her legislative work to combat the problem.
In the last state legislative session in June, the Vermont State Senate passed landmark legislation simplifying the zoning processes and regulations for housing. Housing was a major obstacle in finishing this year’s session, according to Hardy, who acknowledged there is still much to be done about the issue.
Hardy underscored the importance of safe, affordable housing and continuing to pass effective legislation in light of recent housing crises.
“During the pandemic, we got a lot of federal funding that allowed us to pay for temporary housing,” she told The Campus. “It cost ninety million dollars to do just that, and that is unsustainable outside of a pandemic. Now that those funds are drying up, the question becomes what to do for a long-term solution.”
Hardy mentioned the college’s participation in the housing situation, applauding its donation of land for affordable housing on Seminary Street but lamenting its ownership of properties that previously housed local residents.
“I see the college as both a partner and a problem in this situation. I think they are attempting to do better, and I encourage them to do that,” Hardy said. She added, however, that the college has poorly planned their housing and enrollment systems – “the college needs to be intentional and aware that what they do has broader, community-wide effects.”
Hardy still believes the college can work with groups like Addison Housing Works to secure a more affordable and accessible environment for those living and working in Addison County, and she is excited to continue tackling this issue.
With the unveiling of their new branding and mission during last week’s Addison Housing Rocks, Addison Housing Works enters into the next phase of their work with a renewed focus and determination. More information on programs and future events can be found on Addison Housing Works’ website, addisontrust.org.
Editor’s Note: Ruth Hardy is married to Middlebury College Professor of Film and Media Culture Jason Mittell, who is the Campus’ academic advisor
Cole Chaudhari '26 (he/him) is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer. He previously served as a News and Local section writer.
Cole is majoring in History and English & American Literatures. This semester he is interning at a venture capital firm.
In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dogs, socializing with friends, and shedding tears at YouTube compilations of the best moments in American sports history.