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Posted by: Mia Watson on 6/7/2018

A task force convened by the New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, has found that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and unavailable for many Americans. In the report, Missing Millions of Homes, the Coalition linked the lack of affordable housing to a combination of wage stagnation and decreased construction.

The report found that rents are increasing faster than household incomes in nearly every major housing market, despite a growing economy. Meanwhile, as the employment has increased following the Recession, more formerly unemployed or underemployed workers are once again competing for apartments and home purchases. In the cities with especially high demand, competition over scarce rental housing has forced thousands of low income households out of the area or into homelessness. When low income households can find housing, they are often forced to devote a large portion of their income towards rent, limiting their ability to afford other basic necessities.  

The report also found that homebuilders are producing 30 percent fewer homes today than a decade ago. The causes for the shortfall are complex, but the report identifies several contributing factors, including restrictive zoning and land-use regulations, increased demand for housing in walkable transit-served urban areas, which have limited land available, reduced construction financing availability since the financial crisis, and a limited construction labor pool.

The task force argues that the rate of home construction will need to increase dramatically over the next decade to meet the growing demand. The report suggests a variety of potential strategies, including improving trade policies to decrease the price of building materials, revising zoning policies to encourage denser development, and increasing investment in affordable housing subsidies.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 6/4/2018

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) announced today that later this year Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director, will be retiring, after twenty years at the agency’s helm. “As a result of Sarah’s vision and skill thousands of Vermonters have moved into decent, affordable homes since she arrived at VHFA in 1998,” said Randy Amis, chair of VHFA’s Board of Commissioners. “She has expertly led VHFA’s financial activities and programs, built strong partnerships and shared her deep expertise with state and federal policy makers. Vermont is a better place to live thanks to Sarah’s impact.”  

Carpenter’s leadership and inspiration propelled VHFA to a spot among the top five Best Places to Work in Vermont in each of the last three years.  In 2016, the agency was ranked at the top of the list among small and medium sized Vermont companies.

The volume of VHFA mortgages provided to low and moderate-income Vermonters grew by $1.3 billion during her tenure, largely due to Carpenter’s work with VHFA’s staff, board, advisors and partners. Most recently Carpenter worked with legislative leaders to enact a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers. The program’s popularity remains well beyond original expectations due to the critical need this assistance plays for young renters looking to buy homes in Vermont.

VHFA’s role in creating and rehabilitating much-needed affordable rental apartments also grew dramatically under Carpenter’s leadership. In 2000, VHFA spearheaded a successful effort to encourage Congress to increase caps for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program and private activity bonds. That same year, Carpenter worked with legislators to enact the State Housing Tax Credit program to supplement the federal allocation due to pressing needs statewide for more affordable rental apartments.  These efforts pushed the total number of apartments financed through VHFA up to 8,600.

Carpenter is a native of Burlington, Vermont, and a graduate of UVM and Harvard University.  Prior to VHFA, she served as the Executive Director of Cathedral Square Corp. from 1983-1998. Carpenter has been the recipient of a number of awards including the Vermont YWCA Susan B. Anthony Woman of the Year Award and a NeighborWorks America Government Service Award. She has also served on numerous of boards with federal, state and local organizations including Leading Age, the National Council of State Housing Agencies’, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and Fletcher Allen Healthcare (now the University of Vermont Medical Center).

VHFA’s Board of Commissioners will meet in the next few weeks to plan its strategy for identifying Carpenter’s successor.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 6/4/2018

In recognition of her scholarly and professional achievements, VHFA’s Research and Communications Coordinator Mia Watson received the Marshall E. Dimock Award as a graduate of UVM’s Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program. 

The award was presented by MPA program director Christopher Koliba during UVM’s graduation festivities in May 2018.

The criteria for the award are advancement of ethical principles within public administration, evidence of outstanding academic and scholarly activities, commitment to the advancement of the profession of public administration and vision for the field of public administration.

Just a year earlier, VHFA’s Deputy Director Maura Collins won the award for her work as an alumna of the UVM MPA program.  

Marshal E. Dimock was a national pioneer in the field of public administration with deep ties to Vermont and the UVM MPA program.

Posted by: Mia Watson on 5/31/2018

The Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Boston is coming to Burlington to host a training on the Affordable Housing Program on June 26th. This training is important for any developer or lender who is planning to apply for AHP funds in 2018 or in the future. It will be held at Hotel Vermont (41 Cherry Street, Burlington) from 8:30 to noon. For more details and to register go to their website.

The 2018 funding application period opens on Monday, June 11, four weeks earlier than usual. The program awards grants and low-interest loans through member institutions to organizations promoting homeownership and rental housing for households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Approximately $18.1 million in AHP subsidy is available. Applications are due by Thursday, August 2.

We hope to see you there!

Posted by: Mia Watson on 5/30/2018

Senator Patrick Leahy joined Governor Phil Scott, VHFA Deputy Director Maura Collins, and many supporters in Montpelier on Tuesday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the 1 Taylor Street affordable housing project. The project, sponsored by Housing Vermont and Downstreet Housing & Community Development, will create 19 affordable apartments for low-income Vermonters as part of a 30 unit development incorporating a new city transit center. The project was funded in part by tax credits and a loan awarded by VHFA.

“[The project] addresses critical transportation and housing needs while setting the stage for new private investments in our capital city’s town,” remarked Senator Leahy. “Vermont’s future requires that we increase the vibrancy and livability of our downtown and village centers and this project does that in a big way.

This innovative project reflects the growing trend in affordable housing towards transit-oriented development. The bottom floor of 1 Taylor Street will contain Greyhound and Green Mountain Transit bus stops with an indoor waiting area. The site itself is located next to the Montpelier recreation path and is close to downtown stores and services. Research has shown that households that spend less on rent often end up spending a greater percentage of their income on transportation due to the greater distance of their housing from workplaces and services. Transit-oriented projects like Taylor Street can help reduce the overall cost-burden for low-income renters.

Among the funding for the project were $450,000 in federal housing credits awarded by VHFA, which were then sold to investors to raise an estimated $4 million in equity for construction. VHFA also awarded the project a $500,000 permanent loan. In total, the $7.6 million project received over half of its funding from VHFA. Other funding partners included the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Vermont Community Development Program.