By: Mia Watson

May 4, 2018

Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch joined representatives from the Vermont Legislature, housing advocates, and many other supporters in downtown Montpelier on Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the French Block affordable housing project. The project, which is a joint effort between Housing Vermont and Downstreet Housing & Community Development, will rehabilitate a historic building to create 14 affordable apartments for low-income Vermonters and four market-rate apartments.

“One of the reasons I work to increase the federal investments that help Vermont build new homes is because a stable and affordable place to live can make all the difference. They make a difference both to the person or family living in that home, but also to the entire community.  Our communities are more vibrant when we ensure that people have the opportunity to live and work in a downtown,” said Senator Leahy.  “Thanks to the hard work of Downstreet and Housing Vermont, that opportunity will be a reality for more of our friends and neighbors.”

Among the funding for the project were $340,000 in federal housing credits awarded by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), which were then sold to investors to raise over $3 million in equity. VHFA also awarded the project a $360,000 zero percent interest loan through New England Federal Credit Union (NEFCU). In total, the $6.1 million project received nearly half of its funding from VHFA. Other funding partners included the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Community Development Program, NeighborWorks, and the Montpelier Housing Trust Fund.

“French Block is exciting because it increases access to affordable, decent rental housing in a low-vacancy community while also achieving important goals of historic preservation and community development,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “We were very pleased to provide support for this excellent project.”

The apartments will include 16 one-bedroom units and two efficiencies.  The project will have services for the homeless and households at risk of homelessness. The apartments will be highly energy efficient while retaining the historic character of the building.  The complex will include an elevator and laundry facilities. The downtown site location will give residents easy walking access to stores, services, and transportation. 

At the ceremony, Senator Leahy also announced that Vermont will receive over $16 million in funding for community development and affordable housing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and NeighborWorks America.

This ground breaking was celebrated as part of National Housing Week of Action. Advocates from around the country are calling for greater investments in affordable housing at the federal, state, and community level.

Photo courtesy of Housing Vermont