Thesis Chris Brzovic

Thesis: Chris Brzovic

Housing Markets as Structural Constraints on Housing First Policy Implementation: A Case Study of Chittenden County, VT

Homelessness is a growing humanitarian, public health, and racial justice crisis in many North American cities, and the housing-first policy has been adopted as an evidence-based solution. However, the large-scale success of this policy is dependent on the availability of affordable housing. This thesis investigates the impacts of tightening housing markets and decreasing rental affordability on housing-first policies at the community level. Using a case study approach, this thesis utilizes mixed data sources to investigate the effects tightening housing markets are having on the housing-first approaches of Chittenden County, Vermont, which has experienced some of the highest percentage increases of homelessness in the nation over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study analyzes the ways the local practitioners and policymakers are adapting to these new constraints and innovating to further the housing-first approach. The study finds that tightening housing markets are decreasing the supply of affordable rental units available through the private market and negatively impacting the housing outcomes of the homelessness response system. Furthermore, the community is responding by expanding short-term shelter options, increasing system coordination, and addressing the long-term housing supply issue for low-income households. These interventions attempt to correct for the lack of accessible housing provided by the market for low-income households.