2 Vermont communities devastated by summer flooding seek $3.5M to elevate homes for victims

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Two of the Vermont communities hardest hit by last summer's catastrophic flooding have requested $3.5 million in state funding to elevate 20 homes in Barre and the capital city of Montpelier for flood victims who still need safe places to live as the state grapples with a housing crisis.

Many whose homes were significantly damaged or lost are still recovering, and saving houses is far cheaper than building new ones, community leaders said at a Statehouse news conference.

“This is an urgent request. These are people living— many — in places that are not completely safe. But they have nowhere else to go,” Barre City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro said. And those who are seeking a government buyout won't know anytime soon if that will happen, officials said.

“We have folks that are living in dangerous situations who cannot wait that long,” Montpelier City Manager Bill Frasier said.

One Montpelier woman lives in a flood-damaged 1870s farmhouse with her two children, City Council member Lauren Hierl said.

“After the flood they had nowhere to go. They have been living with no floors, no walls. She's been cooking on a grill that entire time," Hierl said.

The woman has spent at least $40,000 toward the work of drying out and demolding the house, she said. She has added insulation and subfloors, and no longer has a bathroom on the first floor. If a buyout happens, the bank owns the home so she and her children will be homeless, Hierl said.

“Every day she and her kids get up wondering if they will still have a home," she said.

The ask comes during a tight budget year, and city officials said they are grateful for the help they have already received. A spokesman for Republican Gov. Phil Scott did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The July flooding only exacerbated Vermont’s housing crisis, and elevating homes is a cost-effective way to keep people in them and in Vermont, officials said.

“It turns out that there are safe ways to rebuild even in flood plains," said Vermont state Sen. Anne Watson, who previously served as mayor of Montpelier. ”And part of that means elevating buildings or homes. That is what this money would be used for, and as far as we can be preserving housing I think we need to be moving in that direction.”