Keelan: Quite the contrast, but so what?

By Don Keelan

One of the myriads of tasks that the Arlington Area Renewal Project is working on in Arlington, Vermont, is to find suitable housing for employees of local companies. It is a daunting assignment. However, with the assistance of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and NeighborWorks, it should come to fruition.

In essence, what is taking place is that we are seeking homes priced under $75,000 that are in need of substantial repairs. This is where the grant funds from the state and nonprofit come in, as they have with dozens of houses throughout Vermont. The homeowner’s equity, the $75,000 grant and a bank first mortgage, makes it possible for a family to have a home close to where employment is located.

Don Keelan

The $75,000 is quite a contrast to what I see every Friday. That is the day the “Mansion section” of the Wall Street Journal arrives. In reading the contents and viewing the photos of that section, I sometimes wonder if I live in a different world.

For example, the edition that was published on Nov. 1, 2019, had the headline, “What You Get for $100 Million.” What the buyer got from the estate of the Broadway producer, Terry Allen Kramer, was a home in Palm Beach, Fla., with 37,500 square feet, a boat dock on the intercoastal waterway, and the ocean. To make the sale, the estate administrators had to reduce the price from $135 million to $110.25 million. Imagine a $25 million reduction in price. I am willing to wager that all the homes sold in Arlington since 2009 would not total $25 million.

Not to be outdone, Ken Griffin, the founder of a major hedge fund trading firm, acquired property nearby for $130 million. There will be a home for him and one for his mother. It will allow him to escape the bitter cold outside of his $238 million penthouse apartment in New York City.

The above examples present a revealing contrast in housing cost for most Americans — and for some observers, the contrast is a real issue, but not for me.

Growing up in Mount Vernon, New York, just after WWII, my family and I had the privilege of living in the basement of a four-story tenement. It was a neighborhood surrounded by other tenement apartments where most of my friends, all first-generation Americans, called home.

My after-school- and weekend-delivery job took me to northern Yonkers and Scarsdale, where I got to see what I thought were some of the largest and most beautiful homes I had ever seen. Some years later, after military service and college, as a young company controller, I got see another set of fine homes in Darian and New Canaan, Connecticut, as well as in Bedford, New York. This had occurred while driving home to Dutchess County, New York, to my family’s “mansion” in the country — our $25,000 three-bedroom ranch-style home.

It never dawned on me to posses any envy for those folks who resided in such expensive homes. Instead, I asked, “how does one get to own and live in such spectacular homes with beautiful manicured lawns?” The answer was simple: the same way that I was able to leave a basement apartment and acquire a home in Wappingers Falls. It took hard work, thriftiness, and the willingness to sacrifice — in my case, driving 80 miles each way to work.

Over the next few months the Arlington Area Renewal Project will be assisting several young families as they move into their first home that they will own. I have confidence that each family will take great pride in what has been accomplished. If someone wishes to spend $100 million or even a quarter-billion dollars on a home, so what?

What is important is to focus on the removal of the regulatory barriers found in banking, zoning and permitting that prevents workforce housing from being built. In addition, to have employment opportunities, that in a few years, a young family can have sufficient income to provide a down payment and handle the monthly debt service.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Flickr/

7 thoughts on “Keelan: Quite the contrast, but so what?

  1. It’s interesting to note that in the WSJ’S Mansion section over the past six months and probably longer, there have been perhaps 2 or 3 homes at the most located in Vermont listed. It’s generally Florida, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and closer to home, Cape Cod, NH and Maine. Not sure I get the point of including the WSJ’S Mansion section in this discussion.

  2. Nice to see someone avoiding the envy trap, sometimes you own the home, sometimes the home owns you……

    The median household income in Vermont is $57k. That means 50% of all Vermonters earn less than this amount, this tha maximum for half our population. It is lower than the nations average.

    This would roughly translate to homeownership of about $175,000 maximum for most of the state. Does our current leadership pave the way for home ownership from $100k to $175k?

    The current leadership offers income assistance in rent for up to $50k income in Burlington. That income is, about $15k more than the median income for the state.

    The state is promoting two things, luxury rental apartments with assisted rent from the Vermont tax payers or build a tiny home on a landscape trailer or heavy duty trailer. They are spending millions on these two programs. They have regional planning commissions implementing this plans!

    Where did these two plans come from? Why are they the only two plans in the state leaderships quiver of home affordability? How is it if 96.7 % of the world earns less than Vermont minimum wage, and 96.7% of the world is not homeless, how come Vermont can’t solve its housing issue? What makes Vermont living so much more expensive than every where else in the world? Why is Vermont housing the most expensive in the nation?

    why? Why? WHY?

    It’s all in the handbook. It’s all part of the plan, that’s why. It’s NOT an accident. People,are making millions and millions of dollars every year on this plan. It’s the ultimate plan for generational poverty, it is used in many countries.

    People could make modest amounts of money, building homes for 50% of Vermonts population, it would be good work, people, families would rise up from generational poverty one by one. This is the American Dream, one by one, town by town, state by state.

    If you follow the money, as my friend says, you will find who is doing what, why, when and where.

    Vermont has unwittingly adopted socialist and even communist housing philosophies. People didn’t own home in the Soviet Union, they rented from the state, the state built affordable housing. See the dots? Connect the dots?

    What town in Vermont has the biggest apartment shortage, has had for decades? What famous mayor started these programs? What area has more of this type of program than any other? What country were these ideas taken from? Who’s currently promoting more of this on a national level?

    How,do you build equity renting an apartment?

    Conservatives and American loving democrats ov Vermont need to break free of the socialist shackles,that is bringing misery, poverty, needless struggles to at least 50% of the Vermont population if not more. The socialists have declared they want to be the second largest political party in Vermont.

    Do we flee? Or Do we rally, bringing peace and prosperity to Vermont? If we abandon our state, we have also abandoned part outfit our country. Then one city, by city falls, then our state, then another…then what happens.

    We could have so much fun this session, this election, just doing what American do best, coming together, one nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible…..peace, prosperity, good times. The struggles needn’t be so difficult, we don’t need bread lines , housing shortages…

    We need to embrace our heritage it’s wonderful, really it’s ok to love America, a republic, just like Vermont.

    • Part of the plan, and it’s writen and video’do for all to see is the creation of division. Conservative republicans and American loving democrats are supposed to be arch enemies in the plan. Do you think Vermont is following the plan?

      Follow the money and power train… Who in Vermont gets all the power and money? Who loses every election? Are we creating more poverty or prosperity? Do we have more home ownership or tenants?

      Conservative republicans and American loving democrats could right this ship in Montpelier, this session! How many do we have? We only need 12, 20 would be nice, do we even have that many? The rest of those in power Love the Vermont infighting, they love framing the conversation,they stay in power. Yup, rinos absolutely love it, they don’t have to do anything, because they are a minority, ” they can’t”, the get the prestige, power and paycheck. The socialists are giddy with delight, look, Mitzi has declared herself the Nancy Pelosi of Vermont!

      What is the leadership farm team in Vermont?

      lead man, unquestionably a rino
      Second on deck, pony tail progressive, Bernie disciple
      Major power in senate, devout progressive.
      major power in house, certainly tows the progressive banner, has Pelosi delusions of grandeur.
      State,lead on law enforcement, devout progressive.

      We republicans have fallen for the trap set by these folks. If they have us hating, name calling and not working together, they win! They are CLEARLY winning. Our state has educated all our youth, young adults for forty years that America, republicans and a Republic are bad. They literally don’t know. We desperately need to make peace with those who don’t know and love America, sadly we’ll have to educate many, but it is a wonderful story to tell.

      Peace between American loving Democrats and conservative republicans is the progressive kryptonite. Love thy neighbor is the Atomic bomb to the NOW Prssc crowd. All these other groups are trouble.

      Rinos and socialists will only bring us bread lines, housing shortages, bad jobs, exorbitant healthcare costs, mediocre education at astronomic prices and college education that enslaves our youth for the majority of their lives.

      It’s American loving democrats and conservative republicans that will save our state. Otherwise we are gonna get what is teed up in the batting box, socialis, communism.

      We as Vermonters would be wise to frame the conversation this way, it’s the truth, it’s, the path prosperity and peace. It’s American loving democrats and conservative republican that can save our state, we need to embrace each other, work together against Vermonts common disfunction.

    • Hi Neil
      The figure of “The median household income in Vermont is $57k.” is mainly due to Government employment, I feel. Many of these people make in excess of $100K. The mainstream Vt’ers don’t approach 57K. If they did, the towns and private homes wouldn’t be in such disrepair—all around VT, I’ve seen it.
      From the Burlington Free Press:
      Vermont is big — in terms of government
      Some copied intercepts:
      —Vermont’s state and local governments employed 50,720 full-time and part-time people in March 2016, or 40,130 full-time equivalent personnel. Vermont has a big government, if we measure government by how many people it employs. Somewhat paradoxically, our government is big because of the large number of people we employ in our small local schools. That does not mean that Vermont staffs every other governmental function just like the average state. After education, the second largest single public function by employment is government administration.

      Vermont’s employment in this function — 36.8 full-time equivalents per 10,000 Vermonters — is 75 percent more than the national average

      Vermont’s high ranking is entirely due to the large number of employees in public education. We employ 55 percent more people in K-12 education than the national average and we have more full-time equivalents employed in our public schools, relative to our population, than any other state in the nation.

      The total number of full-time equivalents employed by state and local governments in Vermont, normalized by our population, is 26 percent more than the national average and only three states — Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas — employ more government workers than Vermont as a share of total population.—-

      This is sad.

      • No disagreements, it only makes the point more dire for those not in government to get affordable home ownership.

  3. Many of those “working class” homes in Arlington have been in a sad state of neglect and required upkeep . This is due , IMO, to the fact that as their occupants aged they had insufficient income maintain the homes, coupled by rising taxes, medical, utilities, food and subsequent loss of one spouse. Thus here we are . Our own prodigy moved back to VT, not settle here where he went to school but to S Burlington, to an upbeat urban environment full of opportunity and youthful vitality. They are starting another business, but not here in Arlington. The schools had a part in their decision. Choices…

    I was told 5 years ago, upon my protest that Arlington had nothing to offer youthful entrepreneurs, that “we like a quiet community”. School enrollment down,property values down , taxes up,aging demographics.

  4. All the affiliates of Habitat for Humanity in Vermont work very hard to help solve our housing shortage. The major problem I feel, involved in renovating older homes, is that they are very tough to retrofit to be as energy efficient as our newly build smaller homes. Also, older renovated homes will no doubt need further repairs, such as new roofs, etc. a few years down the road.

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