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Posted by: Mia Watson on January 25, 2018 - 9:55am

The Vermont Mayors Coalition (VMC) met at the State House yesterday to announce their legislative priorities for 2018. One of their primary goals was to increase the availability and quality of affordable housing.  To that end, VMC supports a $125,000 tax credit increase for the Vermont Down Payment Assistance Program, which is administered by Vermont Housing Finance Agency.

The Vermont Down Payment Assistance Program was established by the Legislature in 2015. The program is funded investors in the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit. The program provides first-time homebuyers with up to $5,000 in 0% interest loans to help with down payment and closing costs. Although the program has been very successful in lowering barriers to homeownership, demand for the program has exceeded initial projections. To meet this need, VMC has recommend an increase of $125,000 in State housing tax credits.

“Continued investments in housing and economic development will ensure we are a state where our residents love to live, our businesses are able to grow, and our communities thrive,” said Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard.

Vermont mayors’ attention to housing mirrors concerns of mayors nationwide, the majority of whom rated the price of housing as the main driver of people out of their cities.

Other housing recommendations from VMC include a $250,000 increase in downtown and village center tax credits to fund rehabilitation of downtown buildings and a $625,000 Homeowner Tax Credit pilot program to improve the quality and quantity of housing in and around downtowns and village centers. 

Posted by: Mia Watson on January 23, 2018 - 1:31pm

The Vermont House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs is holding hearings on rental housing health and safety issues. The Committee will hear from tenants, advocates, and health and housing experts on their concerns regarding unsafe rental conditions and gaps in health code enforcement.  

This action comes as a new report has been released from Vermont Legal Aid, documenting renter difficulties in resolving health and safety issues with landlords. The report finds that many tenants are not fully aware of their rights, and that fear of eviction and lack of affordable housing alternatives frequently prevent tenants from reporting health code violations. It also reports that town health officers are often unpaid volunteers who lack the experience and time to adequately address health code violations. The report calls for a statewide system to register and certify rental properties, increased penalties for health code violations, professionalization of the role of town health officers, and the creation of more affordable rental housing.

36% of Vermont’s rental housing stock was built before 1940, which is much higher than the national average, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Older homes are often poorly insulated and have ineffective heating systems. Safety issues such as asbestos, lead paint, rodent infestations, and leaks that can cause mold are also more likely to be encountered in older dwellings.

Eight years ago, the Legislature established a Rental Housing Safety and Habitability Study Committee to study these issues. The committee was chaired by VHFA’s Executive Director, Sarah Carpenter. The committee issued a report with some of the same recommendations that Vermont Legal Aid now proposes. "Sorry to say that not a lot of them have been implemented in the last seven years," remarked Carpenter. "It's time to resurrect them."

The House hearings are scheduled to continue this Thursday, January 25th.   

Posted by: Mia Watson on January 22, 2018 - 2:11pm

VHFA is proud to recognize staff who participated in the Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) in 2017.

The EVP program recognizes our responsibility to help enrich our surrounding communities of residence and work. VHFA encourages its employees to become involved in their communities, lending their voluntary support to programs that positively impact the quality of life within these communities. The program allows all regular VHFA employees one additional day of Combined Time Off each calendar year to volunteer in a community program.

Nine VHFA staff volunteered a total of 58 hours in 2017, a value of well over $2,000. Participation in the program has increased steadily over the past three years.

Below are some of the organizations where VHFA staff have volunteered:

Cancer Patient Support Foundation

Dragonheart Vermont

Essex Town PTO

King Street Youth Center Summer Boost Program

LUND Kids A Part

Mount Mansfield Universalist Unitarian Fellowship

Pathways Vermont

US Maher Friends

Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Projects

(Pictured: VHFA staff members Sara Everest, who volunteered at King Street Youth Center, Steve Gronlund, who volunteered with Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Projects, and Brenda Howley, who volunteered with Dragonheart Vermont and US Maher Friends). 

Posted by: Mia Watson on January 19, 2018 - 2:24pm

Executive Director Sarah Carpenter announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has hired Sarah Woodward of Barre for the position of Development Underwriter. Woodward comes to VHFA from Aeon in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she worked as a site manager and compliance technician for affordable housing developments. Sarah is a graduate of the University of Vermont who previously worked for the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity on mobile home parks and other housing issues.  

“Sarah’s experience in managing affordable housing projects will be a valuable addition to the Agency’s development staff”, Carpenter remarked. Woodward will work with the Development Department to oversee the allocation of housing tax credits and VHFA loans to developers building and renovating rental housing projects.  

VHFA is a non-profit agency created in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 29,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.

Posted by: Mia Watson on January 18, 2018 - 4:33pm

The American Red Cross will be hosting an open house in Swanton on Friday, January 19th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturday, January 20th from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM for residents affected by the recent flooding. The events will share resources from a variety of agencies and non-profit organizations to help area residents recover and rebuild. Trained specialists will be on hand to offer personalized assistance.

The events will be held at the Swanton Village Municipal complex at 120 First Street. For questions please contact 802-868-3397.