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By: Mia Watson on 10/30/2019

VPR and Vermont PBS have released the results of the annual Vermont Rural Life Survey, which polls households from all across Vermont about life in their communities and the daily challenges they face. Vermont has the second highest percentage of its population living in rural areas in the United States. The survey revealed challenges in affording decent quality housing, as well as concerns about the future of Vermont’s rural towns and cities.

20% of respondents reported that they or a family member had had some trouble paying for their rent or house payment. This number was much higher in Chittenden County (26%) than in more rural areas of the state like Central Vermont (12%) and the Northeast Kingdom (14%). This is unsurprising, given that Chittenden County has higher home sale and rent prices than more rural parts of the state.

However, the survey also asked whether respondents could pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense. 40% reported that they would have a problem paying the full amount right away. That number was actually highest in the Northeast Kingdom and Southern Vermont, where 50% and 47% of households would struggle with an unexpected expense.   

The survey data shows that even in areas where it is more affordable to rent or buy a home, many households may still find it difficult to afford all of the expenses that come with a home, such a security deposit, high utility bill or an emergency home repair. The housing stock in more rural areas of the state tends to be older than in more urban areas. Older homes are more likely to face serious housing quality issues like inadequate heating or plumbing systems, which can be very expensive to maintain or replace.

Furthermore, Vermonters reported concern over the future of their communities. 49% said they would advise young people to leave Vermont in order to build a successful life and career. Many of Vermont’s towns and cities are attempting to attract residents and businesses by building denser, more walkable areas in existing downtowns and village centers. However, reversing long-standing demographic trends will require sustained investments in both high quality, affordable housing and job opportunities.

Despite these concerns, the survey also showed many signs for optimism for rural Vermont. 78% of respondents rated the overall quality of life in their communities as “Excellent” or “Good”, and 53% of respondents volunteered for a local charitable cause within the last year, suggesting strong community ties and a sense of belonging.

By: Mia Watson on 10/28/2019

VHFA honored Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Tom Connors and Information Technology (IT) Director Rick Jean for their many years of service as they retire from the Agency this month.

Tom Connors served as VHFA’s CFO since 2006. Prior that, he worked at Trak Sports USA and IDX. In addition to his work at VHFA, Connors has served on the Boards of the Energy Co-op of Vermont and ReSource, and has taught courses on finance and accounting at Champlain College and Community College of Vermont. He is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College and Bentley University.

From his start as Project Planner/Application Specialist in 1999, Rick Jean has led VHFA’s IT Department through countless upgrades, conversions and new releases, effectively managing his team and IT resources to meet the ever-changing needs of the Agency. Jean previously worked as the Director of IT for the American Red Cross and is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. He is a graduate of the State University of New York (Nassau) and completed continuing education courses at the University of Vermont.

“Tom and Rick’s skills, dedication, and leadership have been essential to the Agency’s success for over a decade,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “We have been incredibly lucky to have them on our staff and wish them the best as they enjoy their well-deserved retirements.”

Although VHFA will greatly miss Connors and Jean, the Agency will be in good hands under the leadership of Chris Flannery, the new CFO, and Dave Chien, the new IT Director.

By: Mia Watson on 10/18/2019

The State of Vermont’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is inviting the public to complete a survey on community needs to inform its upcoming HUD Consolidated Plan. 

The 5-year HUD Consolidated Plan outlines priorities for over $10 million in funding that Vermont will use for affordable housing and community development from 2020 through 2024. DHCD's survey asks for input on local needs for public facilities, job creation, housing and homelessness, which will be incorporated into the plan. 

The survey, and more information on opportunities for public participation, are available on DHCD's website


By: Mia Watson on 10/16/2019

New England Resident Service Coordinators Inc. (NERSC) is calling for nominations for its annual Excellence in Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement and extraordinary performance among Resident Service Coordinators, housing management companies and others working in the field of housing services throughout New England.

Nominations can be made for either individuals or groups that have displayed visionary thinking and successfully implemented programs or modified the way they perform service coordination to better meet the future needs of their residents. Instructions on how to submit a nomination are available on NERSC's website.

Nominations must be received by December 15, 2019.

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.