Housing Matters blog

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. 


Welch champions legislation to strengthen Housing Credit program

Posted Jun 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

miro,welch,sarah,Congressman Peter Welch visited Bobbin Mill Apartments, an affordable housing renovation project in Burlington, Friday to highlight his legislation (H.R. 4717) to improve the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and stimulate the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing in Vermont.  Welch was joined by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, VHFA’s Executive Director Sarah Carpenter and other leaders from Vermont’s affordable housing community.

“Every Vermonter should have the peace of mind that comes with safe and affordable housing,” said Welch. “The Low Income Housing Tax Credit has been a critical tool in financing the development of affordable housing in Vermont and across the country.  While the credit has worked well, it needs to be updated to provide more predictability to housing agencies and developers.”

“The Low Income Housing Tax Credit program is the largest affordable housing capital source we have available,” said Sarah Carpenter of VHFA which administers the tax credit. “Under current complex tax rules, these credits provide an estimated $23 million dollars in private equity to build and renovate affordable housing, like the Bobbin Mill Apartments.  HR 4717 improves the operation of the tax credits to provide predictability to developers and investors and could provide over a 20 percent increase in the equity available for much needed housing.  Any increase will reduce the strain on the other limited and diminishing housing resources.  If this legislation had been in place when Bobbin Mill was completed, it would have resulted in an additional $1.4 million in tax credit equity investment and relieved pressure on city and state resources.”

Read the full press release or check more photos from the press conference on VHFA’s Facebook page.

Pictured:  Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Congressman Peter Welch, and VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter.  Photo by Ann Marie Plank.

Congressman Welch leads public discussion Friday of the importance of federal housing credits

Posted Jun 12, 2014 at 9:44 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

Bobbin_MillAt 12:15 pm Friday, June 13th, Congressman Peter Welch and Mayor Miro Weinberger will lead a public press conference about the critical link between the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Vermont’s supply of affordable rental housing. The gathering will focus particularly on proposed legislation to strengthen housing credits as a tool for rehabilitating and constructing affordable housing.

The conference will be held at the recently renovated Bobbin Mill apartments on Pine Street in Burlington.  These apartments have been financed with housing credits and other loans provided through VHFA.

Speakers will include Congressmean Welch, Mayor Weinburger, Kenn Sassorosi (Housing Vermont), Sarah Carpenter (VHFA) and Brenda Torpy (Champlain Housing Trust).

For more information, contact Susan.Elliot@mail.house.gov.

Details of federal Johnson-Crapo Housing Finance Reform Bill released

Posted Mar 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

capitalSenate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mike Crapo of Idaho released yesterday details of their comprehensive housing finance reform legislation, entitled the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014.

The 2014 bill builds off one introduced last year in the Senate (S. 1217) of which Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy were co-sponsors.   The bill proposes gradually winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replacing them with the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation, a government agency that would provide catastrophic reinsurance for mortgage-backed securities.    Key roles of this new agency are listed in the table below.

VHFA and its partner state finance agencies (HFAs) through the National Council of State Housing Agencies are working hard to ensure that the future system capitalize on the strategic and uniquely effective role that HFAs play in the housing market.  HFAs have done uniquely well in the case of first-time home buyer lending through a time-tested combination of low-cost financing; traditional fixed-rate, long-term products; flexible, but prudent, underwriting with careful credit evaluation; diligent loan documentation and income verification; down payment and closing cost assistance; homeownership counseling; and proactive servicing.  They employ the same kind of discipline in their multifamily housing underwriting and asset management.

 Proposed roles for the new Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation   

  • Establish standards (similar to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Ability-to-Repay/Qualfied Mortgage Rule) that loans in each security would have to meet for that security to be eligible for the federal reinsurance.
  • Require for all loans in FMIC-backed securities a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent for first-time homebuyers and 5 percent (phased in over three years) for non-first-time home buyers.  All state HFA loans would be eligible for the federal guarantee.
  • All FMIC-backed securities be traded on a common securitization platform, which would be owned and operated by its members including state HFAs.
  • To help small lenders take advantage of FMIC, the bill would authorize FMIC to establish a mutually owned company that would allow its members, including state HFAs,  to sell individual loans at the cash window and/or pool their loans together into mortgage-backed securities.
  • Replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s affordable housing goals with a new requirement directing FMIC to support the primary mortgage market to help ensure that all eligible borrowers, including traditionally underserved consumers, have equitable access to mortgage loan credit.
  • Establish a user fee of 10 basis points on all securities FMIC guarantees to capitalize the state-administered Housing Trust Fund, the Treasury-administered Capital Magnet Fund, and a newly established Market Access Fund, which FMIC would administer to support research and development of innovative new ways to support affordable home lending.
  • Require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to spin off their multifamily subsidiaries into separate entities.  These entities would continue Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s multifamily businesses as they currently operate.
  • Although the bill does not currently authorize Ginnie Mae to securitize FHA-HFA Risk-Sharing loans, Committee staff said they plan to consider this as the bill moves forward.



Vermont lawmakers urged to prevent homelessness through rental subsidies

Posted Jan 10, 2014 at 11:13 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

VT Section 8 vouchersAt Thursday’s vigil on the Statehouse steps and joint legislative hearing on homelessness,  Vermonters who have experienced homelessness and service providers  were among the voices urging lawmakers to consider long-term solutions.  Linda Ryan, co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Pathways out of Poverty, asked the state to fund more rental subsidies, in light of declining federal support. 

According to recent estimates from the Vermont State Housing Authority, 911 fewer Vermont households received Section 8 vouchers in 2013 due to federal sequestration and inadequate funding levels.    The state would need an estimated $6.19 million to fully compensate for the loss of federal funds for housing vouchers. 

Last year, emergency shelters served 4,285 Vermonters who were homeless, including 816 children.

Learn more about Thursday’s vigil and hearing from New England Cable News and Vermont Public Radio.

For more information on Vermonters experiencing homelessness and the activities of the service providers who serve them, check out the 2013 Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Vermont Annual Report.

Federal government “shutdown” contingency plans available from housing agencies

Posted Sep 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

HUD recently released its 2013 Contingency Plan for Possible Lapse in Appropriations

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs have also released contingency plans. 


Governor signs legislation to promote energy efficiency and clean energy for Vermont homes, farms and businesses

Posted Jun 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed three bills yesterday that promote energy efficiency and clean energy for homes, farms and businesses.

The legislation creates new financing programs for residential and commercial sectors. It allows the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to borrow up to $10 million from the state Treasury to establish loan programs and a new energy efficiency loan guarantee program. This program will be administered by VEDA.

The legislation also includes  $6.5 million for to support residential efficiency loan programs. VHFA will not be administering a loan program as stated in the original press release, but will be working with other partners to take advantage of this opportunity. It is anticipated that Neighborworks of Western Vermont and the other Homeownership Centers of Vermont will be expanding their homeownership energy efficiency lending.  Funds will also be available for some affordable rental housing initiatives, and for other eligible entities and programs.

A thermal efficiency law makes improvements to state building energy standards, including a more efficient “stretch code” for large residential developments that must comply with Act 250. In addition, the law requires a Public Service Board report on options to improve thermal efficiency efforts, and makes changes to the Home Weatherization Assistance Program to prioritize assistance to LIHEAP recipients for buildings that are the least efficient.

State Treasurer Beth Pearce explained the new measures “create a cost-effective pathway to finance clean energy and energy efficiency projects at no risk to the taxpayer.” She explained that “commercial and residential groups may now finance these important projects while lowering the cost of capital.” 



National housing expert to testify at VT State House

Posted Apr 23, 2013 at 11:28 am by Maura Collins

All are invited to a joint Vermont House and Senate hearing to hear from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Housing Commission on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 from 9:30 to 10:30 am in Vermont State House Room 11.

Nan Roman, a member of the BPC’s Housing Commission and Executive Director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, will be discussing the BPC’s recently released report. She will present its recommendations and how Vermont’s housing programs and policies were featured.

“The recommendations of BPC’s Housing Commission are the culmination of a 16-month process that engaged the housing community both inside and outside of the Beltway through a series of roundtable discussions and regional housing forums,” according to its website.

Key recommendations in the report are:

  • Rental Subsidy for households under 30% of median income in need
  • 50% increase in federal rental housing credit
  • Supplement to the HOME Investment Partnerships program
  • Sustainable approach to homeownership
  • Reformed system of housing finance with greater role for private sector
  • Aging in Place by integrating housing and health care
  • Convene a White House conference on Aging in Place

While all are welcome to attend the hearing, those planning on doing so are encouraged to email Joanne Choiciere. Attendees are also encouraged to use the Department of Labor shuttle due to limited parking, and plan to arrive early since there will be other events at the State House that day.

Housing tax credit provisions survive fiscal cliff compromise

Posted Jan 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm by Leslie Black-Plumeau

With greater dissention than in the Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the fiscal cliff compromise bill last night.  Despite considerable debate among House members about a lack of spending cuts, the bill retains a provision fixing the 9% credit rate for Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocations made up to January 1, 2014, according to analysis by the Housing Advisory Group.  

The compromise bill also extends the New Markets Tax Credit for two years. 

Read more about the fiscal cliff compromise from the Housing Advisory Group


Congress Keeps American Community Survey Intact For Now

Posted Sep 28, 2012 at 9:28 am by Leslie Black-Plumeau

The continuing resolution passed by the U.S. House and Senate last week will keep the American Community Survey from being eliminated, at least until the resolution expires on March 27, 2013, according to the Association of Public Data Users.

Earlier this year, a rider had been attached to the FY 2013 appropriations bills by the House eliminating the American Community Survey.

In the mid-2000s, the American Community Survey replaced the decennial census “long form,” and has become the only source of many types of information on the demographics and housing stock of communities, counties, and states. The survey’s estimates are heavily used to inform decisions about housing needs in Vermont communities. The estimates populate more than half of the fields of the county and community profile fields on the Vermont Housing Data website.

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