While most of WWHT’s housing development work is rehabilitation of existing structures occupied by existing local residents (see Does WWHT attract low-income renters to the area?), the impact of new home construction on local school enrollments is a concern shared by many communities. After a dramatic increase in the number of children in Vermont’s schools during the 1990s, it is no surprise this concern continues to press on the minds of some local planners, decision makers, and community residents when new home building is proposed. These concerns prompted the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) to study the relationship between home building and school enrollment levels. VHFA found that:
- Contrary to these concerns, new housing is highly unlikely to quickly trigger a jump in school enrollment for most Vermont communities.
- The number of school-aged children in a community is more dependent on the demographics of households already living there than on whether new homes have been built recently. Decreasing numbers of Vermonters in their child-bearing years and increasing numbers of single-person households have had a substantial influence on the state’s school enrollments.
- For the average Vermont community, demographic trends have led to a steady decline in school enrollments since 2000 that is expected to continue until 2014. Between 2015 and 2027, enrollments are expected to increase again, but at an average pace of less than one percent per year.
- Some communities concerned about declining school enrollments and a declining population of young adults may want to try to attract families who have children or may have them in the future. In these cases, affordability is an important factor. Current and future parents of school-aged children are fairly young, on average, and have not yet reached their full earning potential. Competing demands on the limited paychecks of many of these families encourage them to seek housing that is priced affordably.
For more detailed analysis and findings associated with the VHFA study please click here.