By: Mia Watson

June 3, 2021

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners announced last week that its annual allocation of federal housing tax credits will support the construction of 105 permanently affordable apartments in five communities across the state. The sale of the credits is expected to yield over $26 million in funding, which will cover over 60 percent of total development costs. The program is the largest single funding source for affordable housing development in Vermont.

“The federal housing tax credit program is an absolutely vital resource that has proven to be an exceptional tool for addressing Vermont’s shortage of affordable rental housing,” said Senator Patrick Leahy. "It’s critical we expand it to help Vermont recover from the pandemic.”

Vermont Senators Leahy and Sanders and Representative Welch are longstanding sponsors of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), which would increase the annual Housing Credit allocation by 50 percent. Among other provisions, it would make it easier to serve extremely low-income and formerly homeless tenants and encourage development in rural areas.

“Even before the pandemic, far too many Vermont families struggled to afford their rent and ran the risk of becoming homeless,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “It is absolutely unacceptable that thousands of Vermonters -- and over 580,000 Americans -- are homeless on any given night. To my mind, there is no question that housing is a human right and that we need to invest more resources in permanently affordable homes to provide safe, stable housing for all our people.”

Projects receiving federal tax credits this year include Village Center Apartments in Morrisville, developed by Lamoille Housing Partnership and Evernorth. They will build 18 affordable apartments in a 24-unit building, five of which are reserved for homeless households. These apartments will be paired with supportive clinical and social services. The building will fill a space left vacant after a fire destroyed the previous building at the location, leaving an empty lot in the village core for over a decade.

Bayview Crossing in South Hero, developed by Cathedral Square Cooperation, is a new 30-unit building serving seniors and people with disabilities. It will include 24 affordable apartments, and as part of the project six apartments in other buildings will be set aside for homeless or at-risk seniors. All Bayview Crossing tenants will have access to SASH (Support and Services at Home), a care-coordination program that helps residents live safely and independently. The building will also contain a commercial space with an office for Champlain Islanders Developing Essential Resources (CIDER), a local nonprofit. In addition to tax credits, the project also received a $600,000 long-term loan from VHFA.

In Colchester, Champlain Housing Trust and Evernorth will build 36 new apartments, 24 of which will be reserved as affordable. Three on-site and three off-site apartments in other CHT buildings will be set aside for homeless households. The building site is part of Sunderland Farms, a new master planned development growth center off Severance Corners, adjacent to Colchester's New Town Center, containing mixed income housing, office buildings, and commercial spaces.

Firehouse Apartments in Bristol, developed by Addison County Community Trust and Evernorth, will offer 15 affordable apartments reserved for low- and moderate-income households in a 20-unit building. Four apartments will be set aside for supportive housing for homeless or at-risk households. The new building is part of the new Stoney Hill master development, a public/private partnership which incorporates a new fire station, business park and mixed-income housing, with access to the Bristol Trail Network. 

Downstreet Housing and Community Development and Evernorth will develop Fox Run Apartments in Berlin. It will include 36 new apartments, 24 of which will be affordable, and six of which be set aside for homeless households. The Town of Berlin recently received a New Town Center Designation for the neighborhood including the site, allowing for additional public infrastructure and redevelopment of the area.

“Vermont’s housing crisis has worsened due to the pandemic, but some help is on the way,” said Representative Peter Welch. “These important federal tax credits will fund more than 100 affordable homes across Vermont and help us house Vermonters who need it most.  Thank you to VHFA for your work building a better Vermont. I will continue to advocate in Congress for increased investment in affordable housing programs to build more homes in Vermont communities.”

These projects help achieve important objectives for the state. Several of the projects will serve as cornerstones of new community development, helping to build more vibrant downtown areas. And for the third year in a row, every project sponsor will reserve at least 25 percent of the new tax credit apartments for homeless or-risk households, providing an important resource to help shift families out of temporary emergency housing.

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 Vermont Community Development Program and Neighborworks.

Pictured: Rendering of Village Center Apartments in Morrisville, courtesy of Lamoille Housing Partnership and Evernorth.