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By: Mia Watson on 10/14/2019

Executive Director Maura Collins announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has selected Eric Hoffman of Essex Junction as its new Manager of Business Development – Homeownership.

Hoffman comes to VHFA from Champlain Housing Trust, where he served the community for more than five years as a Home Education Counselor helping Vermonters gain access to safe and affordable housing. He holds a law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco. Hoffman briefly practiced real estate law in Vermont before entering the non-profit sector. He currently holds a part-time professorship at Champlain College where he teaches real estate law.

“VHFA’s team is filled with people passionate about our mission and so we’re thrilled to find a candidate with such extensive knowledge of affordable homeownership,” Collins remarked. “Eric’s experience and his familiarity with our partners will be a great addition to our Homeownership team.”

As Manager of Business Development, Hoffman will develop and promote Homeownership loan programs and services, working closely with VHFA’s network of participating lenders, real estate professionals, home building organizations, consumers and other state housing partners.

By: Mia Watson on 10/10/2019

VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins joined Lieutenant Governor Dave Zuckerman, Mayor Miro Weinberger, affordable housing advocates, and future residents at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday at Laurentide Apartments in Burlington. The new building, developed by Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont, offers 76 apartments including 52 affordable apartments for low and moderate income households. The project received the majority of its funding from federal tax credits and loans awarded by VHFA.  

Laurentide Apartments is one of the first buildings to be completed at the new Cambrian Rise neighborhood off North Avenue overlooking the shores of Lake Champlain. Just two weeks ago, VHFA celebrated the start of construction at neighboring Juniper House. In total, the Cambrian Rise development will create over 800 new homes for both renters and homebuyers at a wide range of income levels. The new neighborhood is an important addition to Burlington’s tight housing market, which has a very low rental vacancy rate of just 1.5% and high rents.

"We're able to not just cut a ribbon on 76 apartments today, but also know that we're doing so much more with that investment and with this land," remarked Maura Collins.

Laurentide Apartments will serve a variety of income levels, ranging from 12 apartments for households who are transitioning out of homelessness to 24 apartments rented at market rates. According to Champlain Housing Trust, rents will range from $713 to $1,100 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment, $852 to $1,397 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment and $1,193 to $1,630 per month for a 3-bedroom apartment, with additional rental assistance available for the lowest-income households.

The $20 million project received $1,380,000 in federal housing tax credits awarded by VHFA.  The tax credits were purchased by People’s United Bank, raising an estimated total of $12.4 million in equity for construction. The project also received a $4.1 million loan from VHFA. Other funders included Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME program, the National Housing Trust Fund (NHFT), the Burlington Housing Trust Fund and Neighborworks.

Laurentide and Juniper House are just two of several project groundbreakings and ribbon-cutting events taking place this month and next month. VHFA staff also recently attended a groundbreaking ceremony at Lake Paran Village in Shaftsbury with Shires Housing and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Casavant Overlook in Winooski with Summit Properties.

Photo courtesy of Champlain Housing Trust

By: Mia Watson on 10/1/2019

Last week Governor Phil Scott joined VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins, Mayor Miro Weinberger and affordable housing developers and advocates at the new Cambrian Rise Neighborhood in Burlington to celebrate the groundbreaking of Juniper House. The project, developed by Cathedral Square Corporation, will create 70 one and two bedroom apartments for seniors. The project received the majority of its funding from federal tax credits and loans awarded by VHFA.

Cambrian Rise is a new inclusive neighborhood half a mile from downtown Burlington that will create 700 new market rate and affordable apartments and condominiums. Juniper House was named for its view of Juniper Island in Lake Champlain. The building will incorporate Universal Design principals to maximize accessibility, will use energy efficient building and heating techniques and will offer residents easy access to public transportation and recreation paths. All residents will have access to SASH (Support and Services at Home), a care-coordination program created by Cathedral Square that helps residents live safely, comfortably and independently.

The new apartments at Juniper House will serve a variety of income levels, ranging from ten market rate apartments to 25 apartments reserved for households earning less than 30% of the area median income, or $22,000 for a two-person household. These apartments will receive HUD Section 8 Project Based Assistance, which limits the rent to 30% of household income, the federal standard of affordability.

In addition, seven of the apartments will be reserved for formerly homeless or at-risk senior households, and Cathedral Square Corporation will add an additional three more apartments for formerly homeless seniors elsewhere in its portfolio as part of the project.

The $19 million project received $11.3 million in equity from federal and state housing tax credits and $2.6 million in loans awarded by VHFA. This project also received funding from Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the Burlington Housing Trust Fund, the National Housing Trust Fund, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME program.

The project is expected to be completed in early 2021.

Photo courtesy of Cathedral Square

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.