Vermont teachers struggle with soaring housing costs


Multi-family house for sale within Burlington. Photo: Owen Jolly

Owen Jolly, Staff Writer

Burlington House sale prices increased by 22.9% in the past year, while rental prices increased by $100.00 per month. This pricey and competitive real estate market has made it increasingly difficult for middle and lower-income Burlington residents to buy homes, including BHS teachers. 

English teacher Andrew LeValley is in the process of switching careers and moving away from Burlington, partially due to the housing market. 

“I can’t afford to be a teacher anymore, and I sure as s— can’t afford to live in Chittenden County,” LeValley said.

LeValley is renting but was looking to buy within Vermont until the pandemic disrupted his plans. 

After the pandemic hit, everything just skyrocketed,” LeValley said. “So much so that I just couldn’t afford to buy anything at that point.” 

The pandemic caused many office workers to begin working at home. This created a demand for in-home offices and bigger homes in general. This, combined with low mortgage rates, made the demand for housing far exceed the current supply. 

Until we can have a long-term vision for a life here, then teachers aren’t going to be able to move here and teach here for the long term

— Andrew LeValley

A report updated by Coldwell Banker & Hickok Boardman in May 2022 stated that many new home buyers across the state of Vermont have been purchasing homes with cash, which makes attaining a home difficult for potential lower and middle-class buyers, who have to take up a mortgage. 

Shannon Walters, BHS’s head librarian, has noticed this trend taking place in Richmond, where she has resided for the past 17 years. 

“Yes, particularly during COVID, we got a lot of neighbors who moved in and bought houses having lived in New York City,” Walters said.  “A lot of them paid cash down on houses, and the prices of houses in our neighborhood went up by like $100,000.” 

These housing costs have not only impacted current teachers, they have also made it more difficult for prospective teachers to find housing within their school districts. Walters spoke of a Camel’s Hump Middle School teacher with a family, who was struggling to find affordable housing online.

“He’s trying to live someplace close enough that he does not have a really, really long commute, that’s not completely unaffordable,” Walters said. 

Ellen Wollensack, an assistant librarian at BHS and Burlington homeowner, has noticed a change in her neighborhood. 

“During COVID, we saw people from out of state moving in and jacking up the prices, so that does kind of concern me about what the future is for people who have already lived here and this is their primary residence,” Wollensack said.“It’s not a second home for them.”

LeValley expressed worry about the future of teachers within Burlington. 

“Burlington School District is wonderful, but until we can have a long-term vision for a life here, then teachers aren’t going to be able to move here and teach here for the long term,” LeValley said. “And that’s ultimately the best kind of teacher, somebody that’s enmeshed in the community and living in the neighborhoods of the kids that they teach.”