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Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on July 28, 2017 - 12:23pm

This morning Union Bank funded nearly $600,000 of Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s (VHFA) highly successful “ASSIST” down payment assistance program. By purchasing Vermont Affordable Housing Credits for the past three years, Union Bank has helped nearly 500 Vermont households buy their first homes.

Interested buyers who qualify for a VHFA mortgage can receive up to $5,000 in the form of a no-interest second mortgage to help with down payment and closing costs.  The down payment assistance requires no monthly payments, with repayment to VHFA due only when the home is sold or refinanced.  VHFA uses repayments to continue funding the program for future homebuyers.

Faced with increasing home prices in many parts of the state, more and more home buyers are turning to the ASSIST program for help. Demand for the program is more than twice the initial projections.  

Union Bank’s purchase of this year’s state housing credits will provide an additional $593,750 of funding for the program.  VHFA is currently seeking additional funding sources to keep up with the unexpectedly high demand for the program because evidence shows first-time home buyers are critically important to improving the Vermont economy. The Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce championed the creation of this program based on their members’ need for more housing assistance to attract and retain workers.

Since its enactment by the Vermont Legislature in 2015, this program has helped nearly 500 Vermont households with an average income of $65,000 to buy their first homes. Vermonters using the program tend to be young, with an average age of 31.

“This is an example of the great impact a public-private partnership can have on the first-time home buyer market in Vermont,” remarked VHFA’s Executive Director, Sarah Carpenter.  “We are proud to work with Union Bank to remove the roadblock created by rising home prices and the substantial down payment and fees required at closing for Vermonters who are otherwise ready to become homeowners.“ 

“We are delighted to help address the ever-growing demand among Vermonters for down payment assistance,” commented Karyn Hale, Union Bank’s Senior Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer.   

The ASSIST program is funded through a temporary expansion of the Vermont Affordable Housing Credit program, passed by the state legislature in 2015. 

Union Bank purchased all available credits for the first three years of the program. VHFA will be seeking investors to purchase future credits in July 2018 when the program enters its fourth year.  

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on July 21, 2017 - 9:16am

Staff from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will outline specifics of the Housing for All initiative, the program funded with the state's recently-enacted bond for housing development.  VHFA will issue the revenue bond and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will administer the funds statewide to expand Vermont’s stock of permanently affordable housing. 

Staff from regional planning commissions, economic development corporations and affordable housing development organizations are encouraged to attend either of these two public meetings:  

  • Thursday, July 27, 10:30 – noon, Manchester Public Library, 138 Cemetery Avenue, Manchester  
  • Monday, July 31, 1:00 – 2:30, Winooski Valley Park District, 1 Ethan Allen Homestead, Burlington   
Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 30, 2017 - 8:54am

Based on feedback from property managers and apartment seekers, VHFA launched this week a redesigned, user-friendly Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing at www.housingdata.org. We improved search tools and expanded the site to include more information people looking for an apartment need, such as rent and income limits, property photos, proximity to public transportation, accessibility features and pet policies.  

Development of the new website was supported in part by TD Charitable Foundation, AARP Vermont and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s HUD Inclusive and Vibrant Communities Vermont Grant.

The site's on-line directory, updated in real-time by property managers, provides information about every Vermont apartment building that serves lower income tenants and received public subsidies during its development to help rents be affordable. "We are delighted to offer expanded information about vacancies and the status of the wait-list for occupancy in Vermont's affordable, rental housing stock," remarked VHFA Executive Directory Sarah Carpenter.  "Since vacancies are snapped up quickly in many parts of the state, we wanted to optimize the site's ability to connect lower income apartment seekers to the information they need to find an affordable place to live." Carpenter continued. 

Housing managers and owners with questions or comments about the website are encouraged to contact us.   

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 27, 2017 - 2:44pm

With the passing of the State budget and enactment of a bond that could produce $35 million, Vermont is making its largest single commitment ever of state dollars for affordable housing. VHFA will issue the revenue bond and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) will administer the funds statewide to expand Vermont’s stock of permanently affordable housing. 

The Governor will sign the budget bill containing the bond on Wednesday, June 28th at 11:00 a.m. in the Ceremonial Office at the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

Revenue from the Vermont Property Transfer Tax, already a source of revenue for VHCB, will be used to pay back the 20 year bond which is expected to be issued later this year. The funds will help pay for the development or rehabilitation of up to 650 homes for Vermonters struggling to afford to live in their communities.

Recent data showed Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation to live for people that rent and the 7th most expensive state for renters in living in rural areas. It is planned that at least 25% of the housing supported through the bond will be affordable to households who earn 50% or less of the median income and at least 25% will be affordable to those earning between 80% and 120% of median.

Related stories: Vermont Business Magazine

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 14, 2017 - 2:17pm

Governor Phil Scott signed S. 135 last week, a bill to encourage economic growth and affordable housing. Although the law was signed on June 8, 2017,  portions of the bill are effective on date of enactment of the FY 2018-2019 budget. Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce (pictured), also on VHFA's Board of Commissioners, was one of the bill signing speakers. 

Among other things, the bill makes development in state-designated centers faster and more affordable by increasing the downtown tax credits by $200,000, exempting housing projects from Act 250 review and enabling six new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.  

VHFA also supported the bill's clarification of the definition of "affordable housing" as it relates to Vermont's Act 250 and Chapter 117.  To help communities and decision makers assess impacts and move forward with these changes, the bill requires VHFA to maintain a table of rents and home prices affordable at various income thresholds on its Vermont Housing Data website. 

Read more in the conference report summary of S. 135 and Governor's press release.