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Posted by: Mia Watson on September 26, 2018 - 11:47am

A recent article in the Burlington Free Press highlights Vermont’s stagnating household incomes, raising concerns over the strength of its economy and the ability of its residents to afford housing.

UVM economics professor Art Woolf writes that according to the 2017 estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont’s median household income is $57,513, ranking it 27th in the country. However, the Vermont household median income actually decreased by 2.4 percent from 2016, just as the national median household income increased by 2.5 percent.

During the same period that median household income fell, Vermont home prices have been on the rise, increasing 2.4 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. This trend is pronounced in areas experiencing population growth, including Chittenden County, where primary home sale prices increased 5.7 percent. Chittenden County median gross rents also increased by 7.5 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to Census Bureau estimates. 

This increasing imbalance between the cost of housing and household incomes has negative effects on the Vermont economy at large. A lack of affordable housing can make it difficult for employers to attract skilled workers. In addition, when households spend most of their income on housing, they have less to spend on other goods and services, which reduces overall economic growth.

It is unclear why Vermont incomes are not increasing along with the rest of the nation. Woolf speculates that there could be a variety of factors. Vermont has a higher proportion of seniors and one-person households than other states, both of which tend to have lower household incomes, and which could account for some of the disparity. However, it is also possible that despite Vermont’s low unemployment rate, the employment growth may not be occurring in high wage jobs.

Due to the complexity of our economy, it is difficult for policy makers to implement programs that directly increase incomes. However, investing in affordable housing programs such as VHFA’s mortgage programs and rental housing development has been demonstrated to contribute to economic growth by increasing spending and employment, providing a stable base of tax revenue for local governments, and by increasing the financial stability and earning potential of individual households.

Posted by: Mia Watson on September 25, 2018 - 9:36am

This year's conference on November 13-14, 2018 will feature keynote speaker Liz Ogbu, a designer, urbanist, and social innovator who collaborates with communities to leverage the power of design to catalyze sustained social impact. Ogbu has taught at California College of the Arts, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. She has also been chosen as a TED speaker, one of Public Interest Design’s Top 100, and an Aspen Ideas Scholar. Her keynote speech will focus on how to emphasize the lived experience of people at the heart of housing issues and explore how we can achieve a more sustainable, inclusive, and healed future.

The conference will also feature national policy experts and DC insiders Stockton Williams of the National Council of State Housing Agencies and David Lipsetz of the Housing Assistance Council, who will share their assessments of the results of the midterm elections on November 6 and will discuss the likely impact on the housing landscape.

Registration at the special early bird rate is available through October 5. Visit the conference website for a full list of workshops and agenda items.

Posted by: Mia Watson on September 24, 2018 - 9:41am

Morgan Stanley is our newest Platinum level sponsor of the 2018 Vermont Statewide Housing Conference. The conference will be held on November 13th and 14th at the Hilton Burlington. Conference registration is now open, with special early bird pricing available for a limited time only.

The conference, held every two years, draws hundreds of housing professionals, including legislators, town and regional planners, advocates, developers, and bankers. It offers a unique opportunity to network, learn, and be inspired about housing in Vermont. This exciting event would not be possible without sponsors like Morgan Stanley.

A limited number of sponsorship opportunities are still available! Sign up to sponsor this event now to get free conference registrations, an exhibit table, and many marketing benefits. Learn more about sponsorship benefits online.

Posted by: Mia Watson on September 21, 2018 - 10:26am

VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter joined affordable housing partners and elected officials to celebrate the start of construction of Garden Street Apartments on Market and Garden Streets in South Burlington. The apartments will be built by Snyder Braverman Development and sold to Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont upon completion. The project will create 42 affordable apartments for low-income Vermonters as part of a 60 unit mixed income building. The affordable units will be rented permanently at well below market rates. The project was funded in large part by tax credits and a loan awarded by VHFA.

Garden Apartments is part of South Burlington’s City Center project, and reflects the importance of affordable housing in local economic development. The City of South Burlington is reconstructing Market Street into a downtown main street with office and retail space, bike and pedestrian pathways, and green spaces. Having affordable housing like Garden Apartments and its neighbor, Allard Square senior housing, can supply a consumer and employee base for local businesses, providing a more robust tax base and increasing overall economic vitality in a community. Meanwhile, accessing affordable housing close to jobs, schools, and transportation helps low and moderate income families succeed.

Among the funding for the project were $777,000 in federal housing credits awarded by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), which were then sold to investors to raise an estimated $6.9 million in equity for construction. VHFA also awarded the project a $3.7 million loan. In total, the $16 million project received nearly two thirds of its funding from VHFA. Other funding partners included the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, the South Burlington Housing Trust, and Neighborworks.

The apartment building will be managed by Champlain Housing Trust and is expected to be open by winter 2019.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on September 18, 2018 - 3:40pm

A recent report from researchers at Ohio State University and Fannie Mae describes new evidence of ways to extend homeownership sustainably.  Lower income households seeking to purchase homes face many barriers including lack of wealth for down payment.  Further, “after purchasing a home, lower income homeowners are often at higher risk of default due to unaffordable mortgage terms, higher loan-to-value ratios, and fragile household balance sheets,”  the report notes.

By examining data on more than a million single-family, home purchase loans to low-to-moderate first-time homebuyers securitized by Fannie Mae, researchers discovered that those loans made by VHFA and its housing finance agency (HFA) counterparts nationwide had rates of default, foreclosure and prepayment that were 20-30 percent lower than other similar loans. This finding was based on a matched sample of HFA and non-HFA loans within the data, ensuring that the borrowers were similar at the time of loan closing with regard to geography, loan terms, income, credit score, and loan-to-value ratio. 

The research also pinpointed the mechanisms, such as full documentation of loan information and homeownership counseling, that led to improved outcomes among housing finance agency loans. “Unpacking the HFA effect on loan performance can offer insights for alternative strategies to reduce the default risk of lending to this population of borrowers,” the report explains.