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By: Mia Watson on 10/19/2018

This week Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) received national recognition for pioneering the use of state housing tax credits to provide down payment assistance to low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit was originally created in 2000 to fund creating and preserving affordable apartments for low income renters, VHFA led the effort to expand it to help two more types of underserved Vermonters: first-time home buyers and buyers of energy-efficient manufactured homes.

In light of this success, VHFA received an Award for Program Excellence on October 15th at the National Council of State Housing Agencies’ annual conference in Austin, Texas. This annual award honors state housing finance agencies for their outstanding public purpose programs, projects, and practices. VHFA won the award in the “homeownership” category based on nine criteria, ranging from innovation to responding to an important state housing need to having benefits that outweigh costs.

“We are thrilled both to receive this award and to see such immediate, profound benefits that our work is generating for Vermont home buyers and their communities,” said VHFA’s Executive Director Sarah Carpenter.

With demand far outstripping the funds currently available through the state housing credit, the programs have already helped over 800 first-time home buyers and 146 buyers of highly efficient manufactured homes. Both programs have been used in every Vermont county.

VHFA has a long history of using its financial expertise and understanding of Vermont demographics and housing stock to partner with private investors to creatively meet the state’s emerging housing needs. Tax credits create funds for housing when they are sold to investors in exchange for annual tax benefits.

After the 2008 recession, first-time home buying in Vermont lagged considerably due to the state’s higher than average closing costs, rates of student loan and auto debt and gap between starting salaries and home prices. This prompted VHFA and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce to propose using state housing credits to provide down payment assistance for low and moderate-income Vermonters who need help with a down payment but are otherwise ready to buy their first home. Recognizing the potential benefits for home buyers and the state economy, the Vermont Legislature in 2015 expanded the amount of state tax credits available each year to create a first-time home buyer down payment assistance program to be offered through VHFA.

When Hurricane Irene struck Vermont in 2011, low-income owners of damaged mobile homes who were disproportionately impacted by the storm needed immediate, innovative action. VHFA stepped up and helped to expand the amount of tax credits available each year to fund a program that provides down payment assistance to income-eligible Vermonters purchasing energy efficient manufactured homes, including the path-breaking, net-zero energy use Vermod home. The program, which serves home buyers with an average income of $39,000, is administered through Vermont’s largest Neighborworks organization, Champlain Housing Trust.

Pictured: (top row, from left) Tom Kimball, Tom Connors, George Demas, Michelle Baird (bottom row, from left) Mia Watson, Maura Collins, Sarah Carpenter, Heather Kvasnak 

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 10/11/2018

Consensus is growing quickly that improving housing options is essential to improving the health of Vermonters.  Released this week, early results of the 2019 Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties Community Health Needs Assessment show affordable housing as the top-ranked concern among social and environmental health challenges. To help connect the people and systems focused on housing and health care, the upcoming Vermont Statewide Housing Conference on November 13-14 in Burlington will provide several innovative opportunities to move forward.  

Beginning at noon on November 13, the first day of the conference features an exclusive two-part workshop on “Becoming Bilingual in Housing and Health Care.” This workshop will bring together housing and health care organizations to learn more about addressing housing needs through collaboration.  In the early afternoon, Ena Backus, Director of Health Care Reform, and Jenney Samuelson of the Department of Vermont Health Access will introduce participants to the roles of Medicaid, Vermont’s All-Payer Accountable Care Model, and other diverse sectors of the healthcare landscape in Vermont, including health insurers, accountable care organizations, accountable health communities, primary care practices, Federally Qualified Health Centers and hospitals. The workshop will examine potential partnerships between health care and housing, explore Vermont-based examples, and work to initiate new local partnerships.

After a break, the second part of this workshop will use a small group format for leaders from Accountable Health Communities to talk about their work and perceived needs for housing in their communities. The groups will discuss how housing partnerships might increase value by improving health outcomes and creating healthcare cost savings, and how housing, health, and human service professionals can begin local conversations and partnerships, moving toward collective impact.  By the end of these sessions, housing and health sector partners will leave with ideas for concrete next steps for their communities.  To encourage maximum participation, the registration fee for the first day of the conference is only $35 ($45, after 10/15) and scholarships are available.

The second day of the conference on November 14 includes a full day of exciting nationally-acclaimed speakers, networking opportunities and cutting-edge workshops, including several on key health-housing connections.  The “Stepping in to Stave Off Homelessness” workshop in the early afternoon will look at the role of the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program for connecting Vermonters with health care and preventative programs as well as at housing retention programs.  Later in the afternoon, “The Quest for Improved Housing Quality” workshop will examine recent steps taken by the Vermont Legislature to improve tenant health through improved rental housing quality, the roles of town health officers and rental codes and recommendations for future improvements.  A third workshop “How Housing and Housers Fit Into the State’s Response to the Opioid Crisis” will look head on at the connections housing plays at each stage of addiction and opportunities to improve the likelihood of recovery.

Please join this effort to increase collaboration, innovation and health benefits for Vermonters by registering now

By: Mia Watson on 10/11/2018

Key Bank is our newest Platinum level sponsor of the 2018 Vermont Statewide Housing Conference. The conference will be held on November 13th and 14th at the Hilton Burlington. Conference registration is open, and a full list of events is available on the conference website

The conference, held every two years, draws hundreds of housing professionals, including legislators, town and regional planners, advocates, developers, and bankers. It offers a unique opportunity to network, learn, and be inspired about housing in Vermont. This exciting event would not be possible without sponsors like Key Bank.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for a limited time only! Sign up to sponsor this event now to get free conference registrations, an exhibit table, and many marketing benefits. Learn more about sponsorship benefits online.

By: Mia Watson on 10/10/2018

Materials about the potential impact and programmatic aspects of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are now available following workshops held recently in Burlington by Homeshare Vermont and AARP-VT, and in West Lebanon by the Vital Communities campaign. 

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are additional living quarters on single-family lots that are independent of the primary dwelling. ADUs can be used to house family members who wish to live close by yet independently, or can be rented out. ADUs are an important tool for developing affordable housing, as they can be inexpensively constructed and do not require additional land for development. Although municipalities must allow ADUs under Vermont law, municipalities have many options to encourage their construction through zoning bylaws.

Among the Burlington workshop materials are a fact sheet prepared by Burlington Planning & Zoning Department, based on questions received during the workshop, as well as links to external resources on ADUs.  The West Lebanon workshop featured Kol Peterson, author of Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development.  


By: Mia Watson on 10/5/2018

The Vermont Statewide Housing Conference Committee is seeking nominations for the Innovation and Impact Housing Hero Award. Since 2002, the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference has celebrated the achievements and service of individuals by recognizing them through Housing Hero Awards. Recipients will be announced during the conference on November 13-14.

The Conference Committee is seeking nominations for the Innovation and Impact Housing Hero Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations whose leadership, vision and actions have brought about positive and lasting change in the way their community or the state regards housing. Nominees should exemplify commitment to expanding opportunities for decent, safe and affordable housing for all Vermonters, an outstanding record of leadership, commitment to public service in Vermont, vision to recognize current housing challenges and create innovative solutions, and the ability to bring Vermonters together towards shared housing goals.

The 2016 Innovation and Impact Housing Hero Award recognized Polly Nichol for her 28 years of service and vision at the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Previous winners have included Vermont’s Mobile Home Project, Governor Madeleine Kunin, Vermont’s Homeownership Centers, Melinda Bussino (Executive Director of the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center), and Michael Richardson.

Visit the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference website to submit a nominee by October 17. If you have questions, please contact Leslie Black-Plumeau‌ at (802) 652-3429 .