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By: Maura Collins on 12/17/2019

This commentary by VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins appeared recently in VTDigger

Housing affordability can’t be judged just on how much it costs to rent or buy a home. Although those indicators are important, the total costs of housing, both for households and the community, depend heavily on where the home is located.

Vermonters who live closer to downtown areas incur fewer costs traveling to schools, jobs and amenities. These areas often have greater walkability and access to public transportation and require shorter drive times to destinations. In addition, compact development benefits the local economy, placing customers in close proximity to businesses. Downtowns are particularly attractive to millennials, 62% of whom wish to live in walkable communities that have short commutes. Most seniors over the age of 60 also think mixed-use neighborhoods with homes, shops and business are the ideal place to live, according to TransitCenter.

A survey from the National Association of Realtors found that convenience to jobs and home affordability were among the top factors affecting location choice among homebuyers. However, Vermont’s high rents and home prices have pushed many households farther and farther away from the areas where most jobs are located. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of Vermonters commuting 30 minutes or longer from their home to work rose by 6,000 while the total number of workers stayed constant. That means 32% of Vermonters now travel more than an hour to get to and from work.

Less expensive housing in more rural areas can have hidden costs. Long commutes mean workers spend more on gas and car maintenance, especially in the more rural areas that tend to lack robust public transportation networks. The median single family home in Burlington sold for $315,000 in 2018, while the median home in Georgia, Vermont sold for $280,000. However, assuming that households in both areas work in the Burlington area, a worker living in Georgia would spend up to $5,300 more every year in expenses associated with commuting. These costs add up considerably over time, especially in two-car households.

Long commutes have a number of other harmful side effects. They negatively impact workers’ mental health and workplace productivity, as well as leaving less time for families and community involvement. Increased commuting time also harms our environment, with increased wear on roadways, higher emissions and more fossil fuel consumption.

Housing development in rural areas far from jobs and other destinations also has significant consequences for municipalities. It costs far more to pave and maintain roads, connect sewer lines and provide emergency services to homes spread apart on large lots than clustered in downtown areas. Some surveys have estimated that suburban development costs up to 38% more in up-front infrastructure costs and 10% more in service delivery costs than compact downtown development. Furthermore, compact development produces on average about 10 times more tax revenue per acre than suburban development.

Rural areas of Vermont need investment and should not be abandoned for ever-growing cities. Rather, when new housing is being planned anywhere in the state, the real costs of its location must be considered, both to households and to our communities. In recognition of these issues, there is a growing movement among Vermont planners for sustainable growth that allows more walkability and minimizes driving time while protecting working lands and wildlife habitats. 

Centering the development of new Vermont homes in towns and neighborhoods near jobs and services achieves many public goals. Our downtowns are nurtured, rural and forested parts of the state preserved, and more Vermonters have an affordable, transportation-efficient lifestyle.  However, making smart growth possible would take commitment at all levels:

  • The state would need to expand public transportation networks and offer more incentives for downtown commercial and housing construction.
  • Larger regional employers could work with communities to welcome smart residential development and revitalization that supports the workforce.
  • Vermont towns might have to adjust their zoning codes to facilitate compact development and invest in safe streets and other infrastructure.

A home’s true affordability depends on the inherent costs its residents face traveling to everyday destinations. By considering this in our personal and policy decisions, Vermonters can take a big step closer to economic and environmental sustainability.

By: Mia Watson on 12/13/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is seeking a Legal Coordinator. This position assists the Agency's General Counsel in providing legal advice and performing legal functions, including oversight of corporate records management, program and procedure compilation, the closing of multifamily mortgage loans and Agency bond issuances, and the coordination of VHFA Board meetings. 

VHFA is looking for an individual with excellent organizational and analytical skills, high attention to detail, and excellent written and verbal communication skills, who demonstrates a strong work ethic, puts customers first, and works well both independently and as a team player.

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, December 30, 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.

By: Mia Watson on 12/5/2019
Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) worked with local financial institutions to fund affordable homes that will be sold to low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Passumpsic Bank, Mascoma Bank, Union Mutual Insurance, Community National Bank, and Union Bank invested in Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credits available through VHFA.
Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credits provide funding for rental housing development and affordable homeownership opportunities. This year, the State increased funding for the credits by $250,000. These state tax credits are awarded by VHFA along with federal tax credits and loans to developers. These credits are then sold to investors to raise the start-up capital needed for housing development. The state homeownership credits were purchased by Passumpsic Bank, Mascoma Bank, Union Mutual Insurance and Community National Bank. Together, the sale of the credits has raised roughly $2.5 million for affordable housing. 
An additional investment by Union Bank will fund VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance program. This is the sixth straight year that Union Bank has purchased these credits. VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance program helps first-time homebuyers purchase a home in Vermont. Historically, VHFA has sold credits directly to investors to raise money for the program. This year, for the first time, VHFA also sold homeownership tax credits on behalf of a group of affordable housing developers, including Champlain Housing Trust, Twin Pines Housing and NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. This bulk sale made it easier to find investors for the credits, and benefited from VHFA’s expertise in navigating the tax credit market. 
State housing tax credits are a sound financial instrument for institutions and they are also an important investment in Vermont communities, which have an urgent need for more affordable housing. The median Vermont home sold for $215,000 in 2018, which would be affordable for a household with an annual income of $61,523 per year. However, the median Vermont renter household earns just $33,949.
Projects funded by this investment include affordable townhomes at Safford Commons in Woodstock developed by Twin Pines Housing. NeighborWorks of Western Vermont will use the funds on a pilot project to rehabilitate older homes in Arlington. Champlain Housing Trust plans to use the funds on several projects, including a collaboration with Habitat for Humanity in Milton. All of these homes will be sold to low- and moderate-income families. In exchange for reduced purchase prices, homebuyers agree to perpetual affordability for future buyers.
Pictured: Safford Commons. New homes for homebuyers will be built in the Safford Commons neighborhood, which currently offers affordable apartments for rent. Photo courtesy of Twin Pines Housing.
By: Mia Watson on 12/2/2019

The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) has had an enormous impact in Vermont. Since 1986, federal housing tax credits allocated through Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) have helped build over 7,400 homes for low-income families. The program also benefits the Vermont economy, supporting over 8,000 jobs per year and leveraging millions of dollars in private investment for affordable rental housing. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), currently under consideration in Congress, would expand the credit by 50%.

AHCIA was first introduced in 2018, and although it was not enacted, Congress did expand the credit by 12.5%. The reintroduced AHCIA aims to build on this success, and advocates believe that the bill has a strong chance of being enacted. The 2019 ACHIA has been co-sponsored by over a quarter of the Senators and one third of House members from both parties, which is extremely rare.  All of Vermont’s congressional delegation are co-sponsors, with Vermont the first state to hit that milestone.

If passed, AHCIA would enable the creation of an estimated 861 additional affordable homes in Vermont over the next ten years. The bill also adds incentives for serving homeless and extremely low-income families and developing more homes in rural areas.

AHCIA would dramatically expand Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA)’s ability to help Vermonters most in need of housing assistance. Currently, tenants in VHFA-subsidized apartments earn a median income of just $16,702 annually, compared to $33,949 for all Vermont renters. VHFA’s apartments also connect homeless, at-risk, elderly and disabled Vermonters with supportive services to help them live safely and independently.

By: Mia Watson on 11/25/2019

Do you need an affordable apartment or know someone who does?  

There are vacancies in 31 different apartment complexes across the state, according to the Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing. Learn more about particular units by clicking on the development name below, or by visiting the vacancy profiles on the website.

Pictured:  Taylor Street Apartments in Montpelier. Photo courtesy of Housing Vermont

Property Namesort descending Street Address City/Town

Vacant Apartments

Apts restricted to elderly and/or tenants with disabilities
14 Birge Street 14 Birge Street Brattleboro 1 0
34 Canal Street 34 Canal Street Brattleboro 1 0
Abbott Neighborhood Housing 10 & 18 Canal Street; 172 Elliot Street and 12 & 16 Horton Place Brattleboro 1 0
Arlington Village Center Apartments 3658 - 3662 VT Route 7A Arlington 1 1
Barre Street Apartments 39-40 Barre Street Montpelier 4 0
Ben South 120-126 Benmont Avenue and 501-507 South Street Bennington 1 0
Bennington Historic 50 & 100 Carrigan Lane, 316-318 Safford Street, 233 School Street and 119-121 Pleasant Street Bennington 2 0
Brookview Apartments 650 Bugbee Street Hartford 2 0
Caledonia Housing 279 Spring; 380 Portland Street; 139 Pearl Street; 72 High Street; 767 Railroad Street; 211 Winter Street; 78 Hastings Hill; 77 Barker Avenue St. Johnsbury 6 0
Canal Street Veterans Housing 120 West Canal Street Winooski 4 0
Cathedral Square Senior Living 3 Cathedral Square Burlington 11 11
Conant Square Inn Apartments 30 Conant Square Brandon 1 1
Cora B. Whitney 814 Gage Street Bennington 1 1
Country Park 635 Hinesburg Road South Burlington 1 1
Cummings Street Apartments 21-25 Cummings Street Montpelier 2 0
Downtown Crossing 302 & 304 South Street and 343 - 349 School Street Bennington 1 0
Highgate Apartments Highgate Drive Barre City 9 0
HUNT FARM HLP 2066 - 2070 Hunt Farm Road Bristol 3 0
Jeffersonville Bond - Senior 115 Mann's Meadow Cambridge 1 0
Mad River Meadows 144 Butcher House Drive Waitsfield 1 2
Monument View Apartments Hilltop Drive Bennington 11 0
Newport Senior Housing 107 & 119 Main Street Newport City 1 0
North Branch Apartments 87 & 89 Elm Street; 6 & 8 Monsignor Crosby Ave and 47 Barre Street Montpelier 3 0
Norwich Senior Housing 4 Dorrance Drive Norwich 1 1
Park House 16 Park Row Box 4 Rochester 4 0
Roaring Branch 132-134, 136-138 & 140-142 Benmont Avenue and 100-111 & 113-115 Roaring Branch Lane Bennington 1 0
Taylor Street Apartments 1 Taylor St Montpelier 30 0
Thayer BTS 29-35 Conant Square, 149 Mulcahy Drive Brandon 1 0
Tontine 500 Coolidge Hwy Guilford 1 0
Vermont Arts Apartments - Shaftsbury 10-12 & 14-16 Greenwich Street Shaftsbury 2 0
Wentworth Community Housing LP 117 Wentworth Way Hartford 2 0