VHFA turns 45

By: Mia Watson

Today marks the date in 1974 that Governor Thomas Salmon signed legislation creating Vermont Housing Finance Agency. In the 45 years since then, we've helped over 29,000 Vermont households become homeowners and have provided financing, development and management support, subsidy administration and tax credits to approximately 8,800 rental apartments. In total, 15 percent of all Vermont homes and over 136,000 Vermonters have been assisted through VHFA.

The 1970s were a time of instability in the housing market across the country, including Vermont. Rising interest rates and steadily growing home prices coupled with high unemployment made it increasingly difficult for families to afford to buy homes. At the same time, the federal government sharply curtailed funding for the construction of public housing, leaving few resources for new affordable rental housing. Many states responded to these concerns by establishing Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) like VHFA, which were given the authority to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance affordable mortgages.

As the housing landscape changed, VHFA changed with it. When the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program was established in 1986, VHFA became responsible for allocating tax credits to developers of affordable rental housing. In 1988, VHFA established its first program for down payment assistance for homebuyers. In 2003, VHFA created the Vermont Housing Data website, which continues to be the largest single source for Vermont housing information. In 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, VHFA created the Housing Assistance Rehabilitation (HARP) program with federal stimulus funds, which involved purchasing and rehabilitating foreclosed homes and reselling them to qualified low- and moderate-income buyers. After Hurricane Irene destroyed large numbers of mobile homes in 2011, VHFA helped create an award-winning program that provides down payment assistance to income-eligible Vermonters purchasing energy efficient manufactured homes.

Throughout its history, VHFA has been a leader in housing policy in Vermont, successfully lobbying for increased funding for affordable housing at the federal, state, and local level, and providing research and guidance for lawmakers, nonprofits, and media. VHFA looks forward to the challenges and opportunities that the next 45 years will bring as it continues to expand affordable, safe and decent housing opportunities for Vermont.

Visit VHFA’s website to view an interactive timeline of major milestones.

Pictured: Painting of VHFA headquarters painted by staff member Polly Thibault