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VHFA News

By: Mia Watson on 3/31/2020
The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners announced yesterday that its annual allocation of federal housing tax credits will support the development of 130 permanently affordable apartments in five communities across the state.
 
“Despite the unique circumstances caused by the coronavirus outbreak, it was very important for VHFA to move ahead with the tax credit allocation,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “The economic disruption that will likely result from this unprecedented event makes increasing affordable housing available for low-income Vermonters more important than ever. To that end, VHFA will help ensure that when Vermont’s development industry is fully operational again our partners will have the resources needed to move projects forward.”
 
Housing tax credits are the single largest source of funding for the development of affordable rental housing in Vermont. The tax credits are expected to yield an estimated $24 million in total upfront equity, which will cover an average of 62% percent of the total development costs for the upcoming projects.
 
For the second year in a row, every project sponsor will reserve at least 25 percent of the new tax credit apartments for homeless or-risk Vermont households, paired with supportive services offered through local providers to help them succeed.
 
Projects receiving federal tax credits include Bellows Falls Garage, developed by Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. The project will rehabilitate a dilapidated downtown Bellows Falls property to create a 26-unit apartment building and a small commercial space. Twenty apartments will be reserved for low and moderate income households, with five set aside for homeless households. The new building will meet or exceed Efficiency Vermont High Performance standards.
 
At 223 East Allen Street in Winooski, Summit Properties will develop 33 affordable apartments in a 46-unit mixed income building. As part of the project, Summit will also add nine apartments for homeless households to its portfolio, including four in the new building. The building will also contain a small commercial space suitable for a café. This project responds to the increasing need for smaller affordable apartments for one and two person households in Chittenden County, with easy access to jobs, transportation, and other amenities.
 
Red Clover Commons II is a joint project of Brattleboro Housing Partnerships and Housing Vermont. The new building will include 18 apartments for seniors and disabled households adjacent to existing senior housing in Brattleboro. Red Clover Commons is the final phase of a major relocation effort that began after Tropical Storm Irene severely flooded 80 apartments at Melrose Terrace, a public housing project in West Brattleboro. The new building will include apartments for homeless and at-risk households, and all residents will have access to SASH (Support and Services at Home), a care-coordination program that helps residents live safely, comfortably and independently.
 
At Lincoln Place in downtown Rutland, Housing Trust of Rutland County will renovate the former Immaculate Heart of Mary School to create a 19-apartment building. All apartments will serve very low income households, and each will be paired with a voucher to ensure that tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income towards rent. In addition, 10 of the apartments are reserved for formerly homeless households, with supportive services available on-site to all residents.
 
In Hartford, Wentworth Community Housing Phase II will offer 21 apartments in two different mixed income buildings, four of which will be reserved for homeless households. A 17-unit building will be constructed on an existing site in White River Junction, adjacent to another affordable apartment building completed in June 2019. The second building will be built in the village of Wilder and contain 4 apartments. Twin Pines Housing and Housing Vermont are the project sponsors.
 
In addition to the housing credits and loans awarded by VHFA, other funding sources for these developments include grants and loans from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the federal HOME program, the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program, the National Housing Trust Fund, NeighborWorks and the Vermont Community Development Program.
 
VHFA will review applications for permanent and construction loans at an upcoming board meeting in May. At that time, the Agency will also award federal bond tax credits and state housing tax credits loans to additional projects. These tax credit sources are commonly used for rehabilitation and renovation of existing affordable housing.
 
Pictured: The future Bellows Falls Garage in Bellows Falls. Photo courtesy of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.
By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 3/26/2020

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) announced today the award of $100,000 in grants to the state’s nonprofit housing providers and public housing agencies. Another $20,000 will be donated to Vermont-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations selected by VHFA’s 38 staff members. 

“The Governor’s directive to Stay Safe and Stay Home highlights the critical role homes serve in keeping us safe and healthy.,” said Executive Director Maura Collins. “The past two weeks have presented the organizations helping to house Vermont’s most vulnerable residents with unprecedented challenges. It is our hope that the resources VHFA can deploy quickly will ease the strain of the immediate needs facing them, and protect more Vermonters by helping stabilize their housing,” Collins continued. 

The 20 organizations serve every region of the state and each provides affordable rental housing to low-income Vermonters. Each organization will immediately receive grants of $5,000 to support that work. 

VHFA’s long-standing tradition of staff engagement and charitable work prompted the Agency to set aside an additional $20,000 for donations to non-profits selected by staff. Each staff member is directing $500 of VHFA’s giving by selecting up to five Vermont-based charities working to respond to the unprecedented needs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Staff identified a variety of local organizations, many of which are devoted to serving Vermonters experiencing homelessness, hunger and mental health challenges. "I'm consistently inspired by generosity of VHFA's staff," Collins remarked. "Selecting organizations who need help during this emergency comes naturally to them." 

The 20 organizations to receive the total of $100,000 from VHFA are:

  • Addison County Community Trust
  • Cathedral Square Corporation
  • Champlain Housing Trust
  • Downstreet Housing & Community Development
  • Housing Foundation Inc
  • Housing Trust of Rutland County
  • Lamoille Housing Partnership
  • Randolph Area Community Development Corporation
  • RuralEdge
  • Twin Pines Housing Trust
  • Windham and Windsor Housing Trust
  • Shires Housing
  • Barre Housing Authority
  • Bennington Housing Authority
  • Brattleboro Housing Partnerships
  • Burlington Housing Authority
  • Montpelier Housing Authority
  • Rutland Housing Authority
  • Springfield Housing Authority
  • Winooski Housing Authority
     
By: Mia Watson on 3/19/2020

VHFA is aware that many homebuyers, current homeowners, and property owners may have questions and concerns about buying a home or paying their mortgage during the COVID-19 outbreak.  To address these issues, VHFA has compiled a list of resources:

For homebuyers

VHFA staff will continue to be readily available to support lending partners and provide information to potential homebuyers.  We do not expect disruption to daily operations or web access. Vermonters preparing to buy a home with VHFA financing should continue to work with their participating lender, who can best advise them on navigating the approval process during this time.

For homeowners

If you are a current homeowner with a VHFA mortgage and are struggling to pay your mortgage during this time, we encourage you to contact your servicer with questions.

Additionally, if you have a mortgage with a lender other than VHFA, we have published a list of resources that you can contact for support.

For multifamily property owners

VHFA is in routine contact with property owners and will continue to communicate to them the steps the Agency is taking to speed up and automate payments and reduce any regulatory burdens possible. We are working with federal officials with hopes we can allow some vacant rental units to be available to high risk individuals who are currently staying in congregate homeless shelters.

Individuals

If you are struggling in other ways, we encourage you to contact Vermont 211, which can help navigate access to food, shelter, medical services and other vital resources.

We encourage you to visit VHFA’s website to find the latest updates to our programs.


By: Mia Watson on 3/16/2020

In the midst of the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19, VHFA is committed to continuing to provide excellent service to its partners while also safeguarding the health of its staff and of the community. To that end, as of this week, VHFA will be limiting the number of staff in our office. The majority of VHFA staff will be working from home. Our staff responses may be slightly delayed due to the change in conditions, and we appreciate your patience as we adjust.

[Update: VHFA's office is closed to the public as of 3/24/20. The majority of VHFA staff continue to work from home]

Visit our website to see the latest news on our response.

 Homeownership programs

VHFA Homeownership staff will continue to be readily available to support lending partners and provide information to potential homebuyers.  There will be no disruption to daily operations or web access. Vermonters preparing to buy a home with VHFA financing should continue to work with their participating lender, who can best advise them on navigating the approval process.

Development programs

VHFA continues to review housing tax credit and loan applications. Should the date or format of the March 30th Board Meeting change, we will personally contact applicants.

Rental housing programs

At this time, the agency has suspended physical inspections of properties and units until further notice. Property Managers should contact VHFA with questions regarding compliance and asset management practices during this time. Residents should continue to contact the organization responsible for property management with any questions or concerns. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continues to provide guidance on best practices to property managers. We encourage you to visit hud.gov to stay updated. VHFA will contact property managers as we receive more information. 

During this time, we encourage you to reach out to VHFA staff members as you normally would with any questions about specific business issues. If you have general questions about the Agency’s response, please contact home@vhfa.org.

We continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide updates to our partners as changes occur.

 

By: Mia Watson on 3/12/2020

New national research from the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation finds that children who grow up in housing funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) program are more likely to enroll in higher education programs and have higher earnings as adults. The federal LIHTC program, which is administered in Vermont by VHFA, is the largest single source of funding for affordable rental housing development in the state.

Using tax records, the study compared outcomes among people who had lived in LIHTC-funded housing for different periods of time. The study found that every year spent living in LIHTC housing as a child corresponded to a 3.5 percent increase in the likelihood of attending a four-year higher education program and a 3.2 percent increase in earnings as an adult.

The study suggested several possible reasons for the improved outcomes. If the LIHTC apartments were located in a more affluent neighborhood than families would otherwise be able to afford, the children could be benefiting from attending better schools, with access to more supportive resources. However, the improvement in outcomes persisted even the study when controlled for factors such as the income and poverty rates of the neighborhood. Alternatively, increased financial stability from living in LIHTC housing could result in parents having more time and resources to devote to their children. In addition, a more stable living situation has been demonstrated to improve educational outcomes among children.

Tenants living in VHFA-financed housing experience higher levels of housing stability than other renters. The median VHFA tenant has lived in their apartment for four years and three months, compared to two years for all Vermont renters, according to Census Bureau estimates. Vermont’s lower income renters likely move even more often than the median for all renters, given that low-income households generally tend to move more frequently than high-income households.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence on the importance and effectiveness of the LIHTC program. LIHTC tenants tend to have much lower incomes than most renters and would struggle to find affordable housing without subsidized apartments. Tenants in VHFA-financed apartments earn a median income of $16,702 annually compared to $37,759 for all Vermont renters. Subsidized housing can result in better health outcomes for tenants through improved financial security, reduced stress and a safer living space. LIHTC housing can also positively impact the neighborhood in which it is built, increasing property values and tax revenue and decreasing crime rates.

Pictured: Wentworth Community Housing in White River Junction. Photo courtesy of Housing Vermont. Wentworth was developed using Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded by VHFA. 

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