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By: Mia Watson on 9/26/2019

Executive Director Maura Collins announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has selected Chris Flannery  as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), following an extensive national search. Flannery comes to VHFA from Oak Ridge Financial in Minneapolis, where he served as Managing Director, Structured Finance.

Prior to working at Oak Ridge, Flannery served as VHFA’s Financial Advisor from 2005 to 2017 while working at Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis. In this role he advised VHFA and several other state housing finance agencies, on bond structures, capital market opportunities, and more.

“This is a unique opportunity to hire someone who knows the Agency’s finances so well, knows our staff and Board, and has relationships with our financial partners,” Collins remarked. “Chris’s experience and knowledge will be a valuable addition to the Agency and we look forward to working with him again.”

As CFO, Flannery will manage the financial, accounting, audit, investment and information technology areas of VHFA. The CFO oversees the development and implementation of financing structures that support the Agency’s loan programs, including the sale and management of VHFA tax-exempt and taxable bonds.

In addition to his experience in investments and risk management, Flannery holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Northwestern University, and has taught mathematics and finance classes at several colleges and universities.  


By: Mia Watson on 9/23/2019

Fall has started to arrive in Vermont, and with it is the return of many college students to the state. The impact of college students on local housing markets has long been a source of tension, particularly among long-term Burlington residents, who worry they may be priced out of housing by the large number of area students. By sharing an apartment and its rent bill, some students are able to pay higher rents than many other households. However, quantifying the impact of colleges on housing remains difficult for researchers.

National research has found that the presence of a university tends to increase area home prices and rents, but it is not clear whether that increase is driven solely by student demand for apartments or by the employees and graduates of the university drawn to the area. Furthermore, the impact of the university varied widely depending on the size and type of institution.

Area housing affordability is also often measured by the percentage of households that are cost-burdened. A household is considered cost-burdened when 30 percent or more of its monthly gross income is dedicated to rent or mortgage payments and utilities. College students typically have very low incomes, but often have access to other sources of funds, such as student loans or money from parents. Therefore, indicators of cost-burden can be inflated by student households in some college towns.

A recent article from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the percentage of cost-burdened renters is well above average in housing markets with high shares of college students. However, if students were excluded from the calculations, the share of cost-burdened renters in the area dropped by 9%.

Although Burlington was not one of the metro areas studied for that article, it has an estimated 3,000 undergraduates currently live off-campus. Meanwhile, 5,686, or 60% of Burlington renter households are cost-burdened, compared to 56% in Chittenden County overall.

At the same time, many college students complete school part-time while working or raising a family. Even younger, full-time students do not all receive financial support from family, leaving many to struggle to afford housing. One survey from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that more than 36% of college students nationwide report difficulty paying for housing and utilities, while 9% were homeless. LGBTQ and non-white students were at higher risk of housing insecurity than other students.

Most college students are not eligible for the same housing assistance programs that other low-income households have access to. Full-time and part-time students under the age of 24 are not eligible for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in most cases.  While low-income students do have access to some programs that can help with living expenses, including federal Pell Grants, these are not adequate to support many students. The University of Wisconsin survey reported that 15% of Pell recipients at community colleges and 11% of Pell recipients at universities were homeless in the last year.

Furthermore, for many students, poverty is not just a temporary issue until graduation. Recent national data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that 4.8% of college graduates are living in poverty, with many more earning less than the median income. Even for students who find well-paying jobs, high student loan debt can make it difficult to afford rent or to save up to purchase a home. While college remains an important tool to increase earnings and career choices, it cannot guarantee that graduates will not struggle to afford housing and other basic necessities.

Understanding housing affordability in college towns will require a nuanced approach to the data, recognizing that a university not only attracts students but also jobs and workers, and that students come from a wide variety of incomes and life experiences.

By: Mia Watson on 9/19/2019

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and its Vermont partners are now accepting applications for the Working Communities Challenge, a grant competition designed to support cross-sector teams working collaboratively to build strong, healthy economies and communities in Vermont.

The program will award a 4-5 month planning grant of $10,000-$15,000 to up to six cross-sector teams that each represent a group of rural towns, a region, or a small city in Vermont. Planning phase grantees will be eligible to compete for multi-year implementation grants, which are expected to be up to $300,000 and will include technical assistance, coaching, access to small tactical grants and participation in a learning community.

More details and eligibility requirements are available on the Boston Fed's website. Regional information sessions will be held on the following dates:

Tuesday, October 1
Welcome Center, 51 Depot Street, St. Johnsbury

Tuesday, October 1
Barre Opera House, 6 Main Street, Barre

Wednesday, October 2
Rutland Free Library, 10 Court Street, Rutland

Tuesday, October 8
Great Hall, 100 River Street, Springfield

Tuesday, October 8
Historic Memorial Hall, 14 West Main Street, Wilmington

Tuesday, October 15
St. Albans City Hall, 100 North Main Street, St. Albans

Planning Grant Applications are due on Wednesday, December 13, 2019.

By: Mia Watson on 9/18/2019

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 apartments by clicking on the development name below, or by visiting the vacancy profiles on the website.

Pictured:  Wentworth Community Housing in Hartford (White River Junction)


Property Namesort descending Street Address City/Town Vacant Units 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
99 & 109 Green Street 99 & 109 Green 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
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 Bugbee Road 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
Church St HLP 84 Church Street Hardwick 1 0
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
Jeffersonville Bond - Senior 115 Mann's Meadow Cambridge 1 0
Keen's Crossing 65 - 85 Winooski Falls Way; 15 Cascade Way and 16 Abenaki Way Winooski 6 0
Mad River Meadows 144 Butcher House Drive Waitsfield 1 2
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
By: Mia Watson on 9/6/2019

Vermont home prices continued to climb in the first six months of 2019, based on the latest data from Vermont Property Transfer tax records. The median home sold for $219,500, a roughly 2% increase from 2018.

Sale prices increased for every home type in Vermont during the last six months. The median single family home sold for $226,500, the median condominium sold for $209,950, and the median mobile home with land sold for $80,000.

Nationally, home sales have been uneven for the past year and a half. The number of national home sales in every month of 2018 and the first half of 2019 were lower than the previous year. During the same time, prices rose by 4.3%, with the median national home sale price reaching $285,700 in June. Economists blamed the slowdown in sales on the rising prices and an overall lack of inventory, particularly in more affordable homes. However, July saw a higher than predicated number of home sales in the U.S., largely due to a new reduction in mortgage rates resulting from the Fed’s interest rate cuts. It is too soon to say whether this national increase in sales will last, but a prolonged slowdown in new construction is likely to continue to contribute to the general lack of available homes for sale.

Vermont’s housing market has always been different than the rest of the country, with fewer highs and lows in sales and price trends. While home sales slumped nationally, the number of Vermont homes sold increased from 2017 to 2018. Preliminary reports from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) suggest that 2019 sale numbers are similar to 2018 sales, though we won’t know if there will be a boost related to the new mortgage rate cuts until later in the year. However, like the rest of the country, Vermont home prices are continuing to climb, with home prices rising every year since 2014, at an average rate of 2.7%.

This sustained increase in prices continues to be concerning for our state, as incomes for low and middle-income households have grown very slowly and even declined in some years over the past decade. To afford the current median home price of $219,500, a household would need to earn at least $62,810, yet the median household income in Vermont is just $57,808

This imbalance between incomes and home prices can make it difficult to save enough to purchase a home, especially for first-time buyers. Fortunately, Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s homeownership programs can help young homebuyers, including down payment and closing cost assistance up to $5,000.