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VHFA News

By: Mia Watson on 9/6/2019

Vermont home prices continued to climb in the first six months of 2019, based on the latest data from Vermont Property Transfer tax records. The median home sold for $219,500, a roughly 2% increase from 2018.

Sale prices increased for every home type in Vermont during the last six months. The median single family home sold for $226,500, the median condominium sold for $209,950, and the median mobile home with land sold for $80,000.

Nationally, home sales have been uneven for the past year and a half. The number of national home sales in every month of 2018 and the first half of 2019 were lower than the previous year. During the same time, prices rose by 4.3%, with the median national home sale price reaching $285,700 in June. Economists blamed the slowdown in sales on the rising prices and an overall lack of inventory, particularly in more affordable homes. However, July saw a higher than predicated number of home sales in the U.S., largely due to a new reduction in mortgage rates resulting from the Fed’s interest rate cuts. It is too soon to say whether this national increase in sales will last, but a prolonged slowdown in new construction is likely to continue to contribute to the general lack of available homes for sale.

Vermont’s housing market has always been different than the rest of the country, with fewer highs and lows in sales and price trends. While home sales slumped nationally, the number of Vermont homes sold increased from 2017 to 2018. Preliminary reports from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) suggest that 2019 sale numbers are similar to 2018 sales, though we won’t know if there will be a boost related to the new mortgage rate cuts until later in the year. However, like the rest of the country, Vermont home prices are continuing to climb, with home prices rising every year since 2014, at an average rate of 2.7%.

This sustained increase in prices continues to be concerning for our state, as incomes for low and middle-income households have grown very slowly and even declined in some years over the past decade. To afford the current median home price of $219,500, a household would need to earn at least $62,810, yet the median household income in Vermont is just $57,808

This imbalance between incomes and home prices can make it difficult to save enough to purchase a home, especially for first-time buyers. Fortunately, Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s homeownership programs can help young homebuyers, including down payment and closing cost assistance up to $5,000.

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 9/4/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is proud to announce that it will expand its parental leave policy to offer six weeks of fully paid parental leave for its employees, effective immediately.

“When I became Director this was one of the first moves I wanted to make at the Agency,” VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins remarked. “I believe this benefit truly shows our values of honoring our staff as whole people.  Speaking for myself personally, I want my time away from my children to be worthy of my absence, and working for this mission-rich organization does that for me. That said, having time to be home and be present with a new child is irreplaceable and VHFA wants to help more new parents have that ability.”

Paid parental leave has been demonstrated to have many important benefits, including better short and long-term health outcomes for children and parents, and increased retention of women in the workforce. 

“Until state and federal governments can work through the complicated realities of paid family leave, employers like VHFA are leading the way,” explained Steve Gronlund, VHFA’s Director of Human Resources and Administration. “Although for many years the Agency offered partially paid maternity leave and adoption benefits for up to 30 days, the new policy allows provides six weeks of completely paid leave, and extends this to fathers as well,” Gronlund continued.

VHFA staff member Mia Watson said, “As someone who would like to become a parent in the future, I’m excited that I will be able to take time off without worrying about the financial stress for my family. I’m really happy that VHFA is making it easier to balance being a parent and having a career.”

Paid parental leave benefits employers as well as employees. Businesses that offer paid leave increase employee retention, which avoids the significant costs of hiring and training workers, as well as boosting productivity and workplace morale.

VHFA’s paid parental leave policy is one of the many staff benefits that have led to the Agency being named one of the top five Best Places to Work by Vermont Business Magazine for multiple years. Other notable benefits include VHFA’s recent car-sharing membership initiative, educational assistance, an Employee Volunteer Program and generous health care coverage.  

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By: Mia Watson on 8/26/2019

The economic recovery is being felt among many households, with home equity wealth rising and more Millennials becoming homeowners. However, gains in homeownership have not been equally distributed among all Americans. Homeownership among black households has risen at a slower pace any other group, and the rate is currently the lowest it has been since 1970.

While America’s homeownership rate is still well below pre-Recession levels, homeownership has been generally increasing since it hit a multi-decade low point in 2016. From 2016 to the end of 2018, homeownership among white households grew by 1.1 percent, to 73 percent overall, while black homeownership increased by only 0.7 percent, to 42.9 percent overall. All other racial groups saw higher increases in homeownership than black households.

This disparity between black and white homeownership is even more pronounced in Vermont. 71 percent of white Vermonters are homeowners, while only 22 percent of black Vermonters own their own home. Both in Vermont and nationwide, black households trail all other racial groups in homeownership rates.

The slow gains in homeownership among black households is discouraging, particularly since national data shows black households lost much more wealth than white families during the Recession. Prior to the Recession, many lenders disproportionately targeted black borrowers for subprime mortgages nationwide. Black households were more likely to have a greater portion of their wealth invested in their homes, which combined to hit these households harder when the market collapsed. Homes in majority-black neighborhoods lost more value during the housing market collapse, with even high-income black neighborhoods 14 times more likely to have experienced falling home prices than other areas.

The homeownership rate among black households is currently the lowest it has been since at least 1970, when the Census Bureau began to keep reliable records. The Fair Housing Act (FHA), which protects people from discrimination when buying a home or applying for a mortgage, was passed in 1968. All the gains in black homeownership since that time were erased during the Great Recession.

As mortgage interest rates remain low and the employment rate continues to increase, we would expect homeownership rates to rise among all groups. However, Vermont home prices are currently too high for many middle-income households to afford. The next recession could erase even the modest gains in homeownership Vermont has seen so far.

What can be done to improve homeownership rates, especially among black households? More and more states and cities are investing in alternative solutions to homeownership, such as Vermont’s robust shared equity programs available through the Neighborworks Alliance of Vermont. In addition, increased funding for homeownership programs that lend to underserved households can help young, low and moderate-income households afford their first home. VHFA’s ASSIST program offers up to $5,000 in down payment assistance, which can often be one of the most significant obstacles to homeownership, and is funded by state tax credits.

By: Mia Watson on 8/21/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is seeking a Manager of Business Development for its Homeownership programs. This position is responsible for developing, implementing and promoting Homeownership loan programs and services, working closely with our network of participating lenders, real estate professionals, home building organizations, housing non-profits, consumers, and other state housing partners. 

VHFA is seeking an individual who will help us to maintain our great reputation, and who demonstrates a strong work ethic, is creative, highly organized, puts customers first, and works well both independently and as a team player. This position represents VHFA’s Homeownership Division at housing-related events around the State.

Named a “Best Small/Medium Place to Work in Vermont” several times by Vermont Business Magazine, VHFA offers a competitive salary and an excellent benefits package.  For a detailed job description and benefits overview, visit www.vhfa.org/careers.

To apply, send cover letter (required), resume, salary requirements and references to the Human Resources Department at HR@vhfa.org by Monday, September 9, 2019.

VHFA is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to a diverse workplace. We highly encourage women, persons with disabilities, and people from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to apply.

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By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 8/14/2019

Roughly 9,000 Vermont senior households receive some form of financial rental help compared to 8,000 younger households, according to a report recently completed by VHFA on the distribution of rental subsidies by age group.

As the allocating agency for scarce federal and state funds for developing affordable rental housing, VHFA conducted an analysis comparing Vermont seniors’ access to subsidized rental housing to that of younger Vermonters.  The report estimates that nearly 50% of income-eligible Vermont renter households aged 55 and up are currently accessing some form of federal- or state-provided rental support, relative to 30% among younger households.  

Housing assistance is provided to low-income Vermont renters in several ways. The most common way is via an apartment with below market rate rent developed through a public program, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or HUD’s Public Housing program.

About half of the apartments already developed through these programs are restricted to seniors and the other half are available to Vermonters of any age.  VHFA conducted this study in part to assess how many additional apartments made affordable through public subsides should be available exclusively to seniors (rather than to renters of all ages). 

Housing vouchers are another type of assistance that can be used by seniors and non-seniors in a variety of types of rental housing.

The number of seniors living in Vermont is increasing each year and likely to peak in 2030.  Between now and then, approximately 3,000 low-income renter households are likely to age from the non-senior to senior population group. However, the total number of all low-income renters is not expected to increase during this time. Despite the modest increase in senior households, it is unlikely that demand for affordable apartments restricted to seniors will outweigh demand for apartments available to Vermonters of all ages.

 

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