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By: Mia Watson on 6/23/2020

This article previously appeared as sponsored content on VTDigger. VHFA is proud to underwrite VTDigger’s independent journalism. 

COVID-19 has not changed the fact that many Vermonters still dream of owning their own home. Some want a space to call their own – like a backyard for a dog, a deck, or a garden to plant vegetables or flowers. Others may need more room for a growing family. Still others may need more space for multi-generational living arrangements.

For Vermonters who were thinking about buying a home before COVID-19, now may be a good time to move forward. Banks, credit unions and mortgage companies are accepting mortgage applications and processing loans. Sellers continue to list homes for sale, and real estate agents are showing homes using social distancing and other COVID-related precautions. Best of all, VHFA interest rates are currently at near historic lows. Low rates – plus other VHFA benefits – allow homebuyers to afford more, while keeping their monthly payment within budget.

Home prices remain high, but VHFA can help 

Home prices in Vermont tend to remain high, even during economic downturns. Case in point, between January and April of 2020, median home prices in Vermont did not fall. Instead, prices rose 4% from the prior year. This may sound like good news for Vermont homeowners, but not-so-good news for first-time homebuyers looking to get their foot in the door.

Fortunately, VHFA can help eligible homebuyers stretch their buying power with special programs*, including:

  • Near historic low, competitive rates 
  • Down payment as low as 0% 
  • Up to $5,000 closing cost and down payment assistance with VHFA ASSIST** 
  • Federal income tax credit up to $2,000 each year with a Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) 

Contact a local participating lender to get started 

All VHFA programs and benefits are available exclusively through local participating banks, credit unions and mortgage companies. Interested homebuyers can contact a participating lender to discuss their specific situation, eligibility and whether VHFA is their best option.  For homebuyers who are not quite ready to contact a lender, VHFA is here to answer questions about programs and eligibility. Please feel free to contact VHFA at (800) 339-5866 or VHFAhomeownership@vhfa.org.  

*Income and other eligibility requirements apply to all VHFA programs, please visit vhfa.org or speak with a local participating lender for more details.  **VHFA ASSIST is a 0% loan that borrowers repay only when they sell, refinance or pay off the original loan in the future. First-time homebuyer and other eligibility requirements apply.

By: Mia Watson on 6/19/2020

Research conducted by VHFA for the 2020-2025 Vermont Housing Needs Assessment reveals that Vermont’s non-White households fare worse than White households according to numerous economic and housing-related metrics. Much of the data from the report is available on VHFA’s regularly updated Vermont housing data site.

Vermont is the second-least racially diverse state in the nation, with over 96% of its households headed by someone who is White alone, according to Census Bureau estimates. Only Maine has a smaller share of non-White residents. Vermont is also ethnically homogenous, with just 1.8% of the overall population identifying as Hispanic or Latino, compared to 18% nationally. However, Vermont is slowly beginning to become more diverse, with non-White households increasing by 1.4% since 2000.

Non-White Vermonters have considerably lower household incomes than White households. The median household income for White households is $58,244, compared to $41,553 for Black households. Non-White Vermonters are more likely to have low incomes, with 57% of Black households and 51% of Asian households earning less than 80% of their area’s median income, compared to only 43% of White households.

Income directly impacts the type and quality of home that a household can afford. Vermont has a disproportionately low homeownership rate among non-White households. Vermont’s homeownership rate among White households is 72%, while Black households have a rate of just 21%. This disparity is much larger than seen nationally, where 70% of White households and 41% of Black households are homeowners.

Non-White households are more likely to have what HUD labels ‘housing problems’, which means their homes lack complete kitchen facilities or plumbing, the home is overcrowded, and/or the household is cost burdened, paying more than 30% of income towards rent, mortgage payments and utilities. While a little over one third of White Vermont households have housing problems, around half of all Black, Asian, American Indian or “other race” households have housing problems.

Vermont’s unequal housing outcomes are particularly conspicuous among its homeless population. According to the 2020 Point in Time Count, 88% of the 1,110 homeless Vermonters were White, 6% were Black, less than 1% were Asian, and 5% were another race or multiple races. Vermont’s population as a whole is just 6% non-White, making non-White individuals overrepresented among its homeless population. Black Vermonters are especially overrepresented, making up barely 1% of Vermont’s overall population.    

The roots of Vermont’s disparate housing outcomes are complex and far-reaching. With lower average incomes and wealth than White households, housing needs of non-White Vermonters are caused by decades of structural racism in national public policy, including systematized discrimination in housing, employment and education. This has led to generational wealth gaps between White and non-White households, which appear to be widening. Reversing this trend and achieving equal housing outcomes will require significant public investment, including but not limited to increasing rental and homeownership opportunities, expanded access to credit, reinforced consumer protections and rigorous enforcement of fair housing laws. 

By: Mia Watson on 6/15/2020

Newly released data from the 2020 Point-in-Time Count in January found 1,110 people experiencing homelessness in Vermont, a slight increase from the prior year. That number has increased to over 2,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness.

The Point-in-Time (PIT) Count was conducted on January 22 by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance. The annual survey attempts to count homeless individuals and families, including people in shelters, transitional housing, hotel rooms purchased using public funding or living outdoors. It does not count those at risk of homelessness or temporarily living with friends or family. Although the PIT count is the one of the best sources available, it inevitably underrepresents the total extent of homelessness in our state throughout the entire year.

Many of indicators of homelessness showed little change between 2019 and 2020.  1,110 Vermonters experienced homelessness compared to 1,089 in 2019. The number of homeless families, unsheltered people and chronically homeless people also increased slightly. There were some signs for optimism, such as decreases in the number of homeless children, veterans and households fleeing domestic violence. Chittenden County, which has the state’s largest homeless population, had a 16% decrease in the number of homeless individuals.  

The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will impact homelessness in Vermont is not yet fully known, as the PIT count was conducted before the outbreak reach the state. Vermont’s government officials and nonprofits acted swiftly at the beginning of the crisis to move homeless Vermonters off streets and out of congregate shelters into hotels, camp sites and vacant apartments. As of May, an estimated 1,721 individuals and 355 people in families were housed at these sites. The state and Legislature are working on a more permanent housing solution.

Despite the best efforts of Vermont officials and nonprofits, Vermont faces many challenges as it begins the recovery from the pandemic. Although weekly unemployment numbers are beginning to decline, they remain at historic high levels, and are projected to persist for years. Homelessness has typically increased during past recessions as people struggle to pay rent and mortgages. Although Vermont has enacted an eviction moratorium, it will only stay in place until 30 days after Vermont’s State of Emergency ends.

Permanently ending homelessness in Vermont will require increased investment in new affordable apartments or rental vouchers, as well as social services to support vulnerable, high-needs households.

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 6/9/2020

Until the recent COVID-19 restrictions, the number of Vermont homes used as short-term rentals has ticked up each year, according to a recent analysis by Vermont Housing Finance Agency. In a typical month last year, about 8,000 homes were listed as short-term rentals across the state. Largely located in towns located near Vermont ski areas, homes rented for short-term stays comprise about 2.5% of the state’s total housing stock, according to data from AirDNA, a service that aggregates listings from Airbnb, VRBO, and other popular short-term rental companies.    

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) analyzed five years of short-term rental data as part of the 2020-2025 Vermont Housing Needs Assessment.  The assessment was conducted for the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development who is responsible for the state’s consolidated planning for housing programs.  Most of the data used in the assessment, including information about short-term rentals, is available at the state, county and town level on the Vermont Housing Data website which is updated throughout the year by VHFA. 

“Knowing how many Vermont homes are available as short-term rentals is critical to identifying changing patterns in property usage and all the factors that impact the housing market," remarked Josh Hanford, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development.  “This assessment and the new online data tools will help us monitor trends and inform our ongoing work to address housing needs throughout the state,” Hanford explained.

The number of Vermont homes used in a typical month as short-term rentals increased by 12% between 2018 and 2019.  Short-term renting of entire homes is a relatively recent practice in Vermont.  In 2015, just over 1,000 homes statewide were listed as short-term rentals, according to AirDNA.

During the first half of May 2020, industry analysts reported an upturn in short-term rental bookings in large U.S. tourist destinations.  If this pattern also holds true in Vermont, the COVID-19 pandemic is not likely to thwart the increasing popularity of Vermont short-term rentals.

Short-term rentals generate substantial economic activity for Vermont, for the hosts of the units, surrounding communities as guests visit shops, restaurants, and other businesses.  On the biggest earning weekends in 2019, Vermont Airbnb hosts earned $15.1 million and served about 69,800 guests, according to paper published by Dartmouth University students earlier this month.  

“Our assessment revealed that many of the short-term rental homes in Vermont are listed on AirBnB and similar sites only for selected nights each month,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins.  This can occur if a homeowner lists a home that is their primary, year-round residence as a short-term rental to tap the home’s earning potential as temporary lodging while the owner is away.  “In these cases, short-term renting is not edging out a year-round renter, because the home is the primary residence of the owner,” Collins explained.

In a typical month, an estimated 2,700 Vermont homes are listed as short-term rentals for selected nights, but not for the entire month.

“Where we grow concerned is when we see that an owner can rent a home for just five nights before earning more than a landlord can earn in a month, housing Vermont’s workforce,” Collins continued. “We are excited we can now help the state hone in on the potential housing market impacts of short-term rentals,” she said.

In 2019, an estimated 5,300 homes, 1.8% of all Vermont homes, were used consistently throughout a typical month as short-term rentals. By comparison, 17% of the state’s housing stock is comprised of seasonal homes, according to Census Bureau estimates as of 2017.  Next to Maine, this is the second-highest rate of seasonal homes in the nation.

Despite the growth of Vermont’s stock of seasonal homes, the number of homes occupied by year- round residents has changed very little since 2010, according to the 2020-2025 Vermont Housing Needs Assessment.  

By: eric on 6/8/2020

Homebuyers - especially first-time homebuyers - usually have questions about where to start and where to find special programs. To answer these and other questions, VHFA is hosting a one-hour webinar to explain how VHFA programs can help eligible homebuyers. Topics will include:

  • VHFA programs and benefits
  • VHFA eligibility requirements
  • How to find a participating lender and get started
  • Where to start if homebuyers are not quite ready to contact a lender

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m. EST


VHFA can help homebuyers stretch their buying power!

Vermont is an attractive place to live with a limited housing supply. Home prices tend to remain high, even through economic downturns. This is good news for homeowners, but not-so-good-news for first-time homebuyers looking to get their foot in the door. Luckily, VHFA is here to help eligible homebuyers with special programs, including:*

  • Low competitive rates
  • Down payment requirements as low as 0% - 3%, and
  • Up to $5,000 closing cost and down payment assistance with VHFA ASSIST**
  • Tax breaks and lower private mortgage insurance where applicable

Interested homebuyers can contact a local VHFA participating lender today!

 VHFA offers all of its programs through local participating banks, credit unions and mortgage companies. The first step in the homebuying process is to contact a VHFA participating lender. A complete list of participating lenders can be found at VHFA's website. Interested homebuyers are encouraged to contact a participating lender to ask about eligibility and if VHFA would be their best option.  

VHFA is here to help!

Homebuyers who are not quite ready to contact a lender can contact HFA with any questions at  VHFAhomeownership@vhfa.org or (802) 652-3461. 

*Income and other eligibility requirements apply for all VHFA programs, for more details please visit vhfa.org or speak with a participating lender.

**VHFA ASSIST is a 0% loan that borrowers repay only when they sell or refinance in the future.