Housing Matters blog

VHFA is seeking financial advisory services

Posted Aug 21, 2014 at 9:45 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

VHFA is looking for a firm (or combination of firms) to perform one or a combination of financial advisory services. We’ve published a request for proposal (RFP) document at www.vhfa.org to help us in our search.

The contract will likely begin in October 2014. Deadline for replies is September 10, 2014.

Learn more about the RFP online, and don’t hesitate to contact us at finrfp@vhfa.org with your questions. We’ll be posting your questions, and our answers, on the RFP page.


Update of Vermont building energy standards moves forward

Posted Aug 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

energy meterAfter reviewing comments, the Vermont Public Service Department has revised Vermont’s building energy standards and submitted them to the Secretary of State as part of the rulemaking process. Public hearings to discuss the proposed standards will be held on September 19th.

More information and the updated versions of the standards are available on the Vermont Public Service Department website.

The September 19th public hearing will be held in Montpelier (Room 11 of the Statehouse), with discussion on the Commercial Building Energy Standards from 10:30 am to 12:00 noon and discussion on the Residential Building Energy Standards from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm.

The Public Service Department is also accepting written comments on the revised versions of the standards through September 26th.  Written comments should be submitted via forms on the department’s web site:

Jim Jeffords, former U.S. Senator and Vermont Housing Hero, dies at age 80

Posted Aug 18, 2014 at 12:04 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

jeffords sarahFormer U.S. Senator and long-time Vermont resident Jim Jeffords died this morning. Since retiring from the Senate in 2007, Jeffords has lived in Knollwood Military Retirement Residence in the Washington, DC area near his family.

During his 14 years in the House of Representatives and 18-year tenure in the Senate, Jeffords was a tireless advocate for the elderly and those with special needs.  He was a champion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and for tax-exempt bonds. While on the Senate Finance Committee, he helped pass a small-state floor for the housing credit program, allowing Vermont to secure a much-needed allotment each year. More than half of Vermont’s stock of subsidized rental housing has been developed through the housing credit program.

In 2002, Senator Jeffords and Vermont congressional delegation colleagues Senator Patrick Leahy and then-Representative Bernie Sanders were awarded the Vermont Housing Hero award. Every two years, Vermont housing agencies make this award to an individual or group who has had made a substantial impact on the availability of affordable housing for Vermonters.

Pictured:  Jim Jeffords and VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter, 2005. 


New 3.875% interest rate extends home buying opportunities

Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

visionToday marked VHFA’s unprecedented release of $20 million in financing for Vermont home buyers with a new, historically low, fixed interest rate of 3.875% for 30-year mortgages.  The low rate is available for VHFA’s conventional and government loan programs, and is available exclusively through VHFA participating lenders.

“This rate helps us extend the dream of homeownership to more people,” said VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “Although we are always finding new ways to offer the lowest rates we can, we may not be able to offer this rate for long due to the limited size of the funding pool,” Carpenter continued.

The traditional benefits of a VHFA mortgage make these new, low-rate mortgages even more affordable for qualified buyers.

VHFA borrowers always save up to $625 at closing because the first $110,000 of the property purchase price is exempt from the Vermont Property Transfer Tax. In addition, VHFA loans carry no loan level pricing adjustments or loan delivery fees from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They also have lower mortgage insurance coverage requirements, lower premiums and expanded eligibility.

More information on VHFA’s new low rates, other programs, and local participating lenders are available on its website at www.vhfa.org.

Are renters less energy efficient than homeowners?

Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

energy useExcerpts from an article by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, American renters use nearly a third more energy per square foot than homeowners. What accounts for this difference?

In part it’s because rental units are typically smaller, and are therefore more energy intensive. For example, a family in a small apartment needs a refrigerator, stove, and water heater the same way a family in a larger apartment (or a homeowner) does. These things require a basic amount of energy, regardless of square footage. Rental units also tend to be older.
That said, the above chart shows that renters consume considerably more energy when some or all of their utility costs are fixed (built into their rent).

Even so, renters who pay for utilities separate from their rent still use slightly more energy per square foot than owners. This suggests a real, structural efficiency gap between rental and owner units. In fact, a recent study found that multifamily rentals in 2009 had 34% fewer energy efficiency features on average than other housing types. Consumer fuels and utility costs have risen over 50 percent over the past decade, outstripping overall inflation, which makes energy efficiency improvements (insulation, energy efficient windows, compact fluorescent lighting, HVAC upgrades, energy efficient appliances) appealing to people wanting to lower their energy bills. But when tenants pay for their metered energy usage, a property owner’s incentive to perform energy efficiency retrofits is lower, since any cost savings will benefit the tenants, not the owner. Rental property managers also have less control over how their tenants respond to an energy retrofit (e.g. more efficient windows might still be left open in the winter). These things can keep rental property owners from performing energy efficiency retrofits at the same rate as homeowners which, in turn, keeps energy usage by renters high.

The gap between energy usage between owners and renters suggests that there are real opportunities for savings through some combination of added incentives for property owners to make these investments in retrofits and greater incentives for tenants to conserve energy. Lowering energy use would have the additional benefit of bringing down the cost of rental housing at a time when more renters are paying very high shares of their incomes for housing.

Transformation of Morrisville building into affordable apartments in the news

Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 10:16 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

fox_storyDramatic renovations at the former Arthur’s Department Store in Morrisville were the subject of a Fox 44 story over the weekend.  The building is being converted from vacant, unused space into 18 units of affordable housing, thanks in large part to housing tax credit funding provided through VHFA.

Developers Housing Vermont and Lamoille Housing Partnership worked with VHFA and other Vermont organizations to secure the funds needed to ensure the long-term affordability and quality of the new apartments.  In addition to VHFA, funding sources include the Vermont Community Development Program, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, federal HOME program, and historic tax credits and downtown tax credits.

Watch the Fox 44 story.




A new look at the connection between home prices and movers

Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 10:28 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

MoversThe share of movers within the U.S. who moved to find more affordable housing has grown in recent years, according to the New York Times. Cities like San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Raleigh-Durham have experienced substantial recent population growth, including among young adults, while their home prices became more affordable, the article explains.

Although no Vermont locations were included in the Times study, Housing Matters took a look at how Vermont’s migration patterns compare with the rest of the country. Overall, movers to Vermont from other states comprised more of our state’s current population than in other states. In fact, 13% of Vermont’s 25-34 year olds were recent movers from other states, compared to the nationwide average of 8%.

Vermont’s population gains since 2010 are entirely due to the pull of Chittenden County, according to Census Bureau estimates. However, it is unlikely that housing costs are the reason for the county’s gains. The county’s median home sales price of $256,000 is substantially higher than the $210,000 U.S. median.

Groundbreaking set for new apartments at Waterbury state office complex

Posted Aug 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

ladd hallMark your calendars for the groundbreaking celebration for South Main Apartments (formerly the state office complex’s Ladd Hall) in Waterbury. Senator Patrick Leahy will join developers Central Vermont Community Land Trust and Housing Vermont as the community gathers to kick off the redevelopment of this historic building after the disrepair caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

The celebration will take place Tuesday, August 12th, at 11:00 am at the building site at 36 State Drive in Waterbury.

The 27-unit project was funded through VHFA’s federal and state housing tax credits as well as through funds from Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the federal HOME program.

Image courtesy of Housing Vermont.


Vermont homes and buildings featured in new book on net-zero energy use

Posted Aug 4, 2014 at 10:39 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

New_net_zeroThe goals for green building are no longer low energy but net-zero energy use. The New New Net Zero, by William Maclay and Maclay Architects, features several prominent Vermont buildings and homes to illustrate the possibilities of net-zero design and construction.

A home designed by Shelburne-based Pill-Maharam Architects in response to a pilot program led by Vermont Housing & Conservation Board is among the book’s case studies, according to last week’s review by Seven Days.

The book’s case studies, lessons learned, and practical construction details lays a path to a net-zero-energy future of structures that produce as much energy as they consume, using only renewable energy sources.

Additional apartments in Bennington unlikely to disrupt schools

Posted Jul 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

Bennington childrenA new housing development in Bennington financed through VHFA’s Housing Tax Credit program has come under fire from several local residents. They had based their opposition to the development in part on the potential impact that children moving into the apartments on public school enrollment.

However, Bennington school officials estimated that new apartments planned for development through Shires Housing would be unlikely to cause hardship for local schools, the Bennington Banner reported recently.

VHFA’s analysis shows that similar rental units in the area contain an average of 0.78 children per unit—far below neighbors’ estimates.

Like most of Vermont, overall demographic shifts in the population caused the number of children in Bennington decline by 12-13%in the past decade.


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