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Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on March 6, 2018 - 3:31pm

H.R. 766, the bill that includes an expansion of  VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance Program, was approved by the Vermont House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development last week.  Since the program started in 2015, demand among qualified first-time home buyers has been twice what can be funded through the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit, the program’s designated funding source. 

The roughly $5,000 in assistance the program provides to each borrower is especially critical for young  first-time home buyers who are making starting salaries and facing Vermont’s relatively high closing costs. The 600 home buyers  the program has served so far have had an annual income of $65,000, purchased a home costing $160,000 and are 31 years old, on average. 

H.R. 766 also includes a homeowner’s rehabilitation tax credit that would be overseen by the Vermont Downtown Development Board and an expansion of the successful Downtown Development Tax Credit program.  Last Friday VHFA’s Executive Director Sarah Carpenter testified in support of the bill before the House Ways and Means Committee. VHFA and other supporters are hopeful that consideration of the bill will continue as part of the State House's “Downtown Day” scheduled to take place when the Legislature resumes on March 13th. 

Pictured: Dorothy Pfende is one of the 600 first-time Vermont home buyers who have used the Down Payment Assistance Program since it started in 2015. by P. Detzer. 

Posted by: Mia Watson on March 2, 2018 - 1:09pm

Residents of Windy Hollow Cooperative in Castleton are celebrating the successful purchase of their mobile home park, which was assisted by Vermont Housing Finance Agency. The creation of the housing co-op will help retain affordable homes for 44 households.

The cooperative was formed after the previous owner, HGWH Inc., issued a notice of its intent to sell the park in 2015. Under Vermont law, residents of mobile home communities in Vermont have the option to purchase properties before they are offered to the public. If the park had been sold to another owner, residents could have been subject to increases in rent or possibly displaced. The residents opted to form a cooperative to pursue the sale. Over the next three years, the park went through a lengthy process of inspections and reviews to allow the sale to go through.

The park was finally purchased for $1.04 million on February 15th. Vermont Housing Finance Agency was the primary mortgage lender, providing a direct loan of $954,000. The project also received support from a variety of other partners, including the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, the Cooperative Fund of New England, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Cooperative Development Institute of Massachusetts.

“We were pleased to be able to assist with this purchase,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “VHFA recognizes the importance of sustainable solutions to preserve affordable housing”.

By forming a cooperative, residents of Windy Hollow will have control of bylaws and budget, and are in the process of upgrading and maintaining the park’s water system and other infrastructure. Demand for the lots has been high. According to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, all 44 lots are currently occupied.   

Posted by: Will White on March 1, 2018 - 3:29pm
view of Vermont

Need an affordable apartment or know someone who does?  There are vacancies in 24 different apartment complexes across the state, according to the Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing. Find out more about particular units by visiting the vacancy profiles online.

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Affordable rental housing vacancies in Vermont

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on February 22, 2018 - 4:22pm

Yesterday, Ryan Rush-Booth, a Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) borrower who lives in Stamford, VT, testified at the State House in support of doubling VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance program funding. Rush-Booth works in IT at Southwestern VT Medical Center. When they first moved to Vermont six years ago, Ryan, his wife, and their two young children moved in with family because they could not find affordable housing.

While living with parents, Ryan and his wife saved up enough money to try to buy a home, but could only afford a recent foreclosure that needed a tremendous amount of work. Because the family needed to dedicate much of their savings toward improving the home, the down payment assistance funding provided by VHFA was a critical factor. 

In addition to testifying in the state Senate, Rush-Booth presented at a luncheon for legislators and other partners. Doubling the funding available for VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance program, called the ASSIST Program, was included in Governor Scott's budget and is now under consideration in the Vermont Legislature. 

Expanding the Down Payment Assistance Program would insure that it remains available to future potential first-time home buyers like Rush-Booth and his family.  Since the program began in 2015, demand has been running at twice what can be funded through the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit, the program's designated funding source. 

Posted by: Mia Watson on February 22, 2018 - 9:00am

A new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that lenders across the United States are denying conventional mortgage loan applications for African American and Latino applicants at higher rates than comparable White applicants.

Minority groups in the United States have historically struggled to access homeownership, in large part due to racially biased lending practices. In response, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed in order to help protect individuals from discriminatory practices by landlords and financial institutions. The Community Reinvestment Act was later passed in 1977 to provide incentives for financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of their local communities. Despite these positive efforts, racially biased lending – also known as red-lining – continues.

According to Pew Research Center, data collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act shows that overall in 2015, 27% of African American applicants and 19% of Latino applicants were denied mortgages, compared with about 11% of White and Asian applicants. The Center for Investigative Reporting report finds that in many markets, inequality persisted even after controlling for applicant income, loan amount, and the neighborhood.

The racial divide in mortgage lending and homeownership was widened by the housing crisis beginning in 2007. The Urban Institute describes how African American households in particular were disproportionately targeted with predatory lending practices before the crisis, lost a greater proportion of household wealth during the recession, and have recovered more slowly than other groups. Only 20% of African Americans aged 30 to 34 owned homes in 2016, compared with 34% back in 2000.

In the wake of the crisis, tight credit market conditions have made it difficult for all households with lower credit scores and modest savings to obtain a home loan. It can be difficult to separate the effects of the well-documented history of racially biased lending with a housing market that has significant barriers of entry for many homebuyers. Housing experts consulted by the Urban Institute argue that the problem must be tackled on both ends – including increasing transparency and accountability in the lending process to ensure fairness, strengthening enforcement of federal housing laws, and by reevaluating the loan approval process to consider a broader range of creditworthiness factors.

State housing finance agencies like VHFA can also play an important role in dismantling barriers to homeownership for low- and moderate-income households by offering mortgages with low interest rates and low down payment options as well as down payment and closing cost assistance.