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By: Mia Watson on 8/26/2019

The economic recovery is being felt among many households, with home equity wealth rising and more Millennials becoming homeowners. However, gains in homeownership have not been equally distributed among all Americans. Homeownership among black households has risen at a slower pace any other group, and the rate is currently the lowest it has been since 1970.

While America’s homeownership rate is still well below pre-Recession levels, homeownership has been generally increasing since it hit a multi-decade low point in 2016. From 2016 to the end of 2018, homeownership among white households grew by 1.1 percent, to 73 percent overall, while black homeownership increased by only 0.7 percent, to 42.9 percent overall. All other racial groups saw higher increases in homeownership than black households.

This disparity between black and white homeownership is even more pronounced in Vermont. 71 percent of white Vermonters are homeowners, while only 22 percent of black Vermonters own their own home. Both in Vermont and nationwide, black households trail all other racial groups in homeownership rates.

The slow gains in homeownership among black households is discouraging, particularly since national data shows black households lost much more wealth than white families during the Recession. Prior to the Recession, many lenders disproportionately targeted black borrowers for subprime mortgages nationwide. Black households were more likely to have a greater portion of their wealth invested in their homes, which combined to hit these households harder when the market collapsed. Homes in majority-black neighborhoods lost more value during the housing market collapse, with even high-income black neighborhoods 14 times more likely to have experienced falling home prices than other areas.

The homeownership rate among black households is currently the lowest it has been since at least 1970, when the Census Bureau began to keep reliable records. The Fair Housing Act (FHA), which protects people from discrimination when buying a home or applying for a mortgage, was passed in 1968. All the gains in black homeownership since that time were erased during the Great Recession.

As mortgage interest rates remain low and the employment rate continues to increase, we would expect homeownership rates to rise among all groups. However, Vermont home prices are currently too high for many middle-income households to afford. The next recession could erase even the modest gains in homeownership Vermont has seen so far.

What can be done to improve homeownership rates, especially among black households? More and more states and cities are investing in alternative solutions to homeownership, such as Vermont’s robust shared equity programs available through the Neighborworks Alliance of Vermont. In addition, increased funding for homeownership programs that lend to underserved households can help young, low and moderate-income households afford their first home. VHFA’s ASSIST program offers up to $5,000 in down payment assistance, which can often be one of the most significant obstacles to homeownership, and is funded by state tax credits.

By: Mia Watson on 8/21/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is seeking a Manager of Business Development for its Homeownership programs. This position is responsible for developing, implementing and promoting Homeownership loan programs and services, working closely with our network of participating lenders, real estate professionals, home building organizations, housing non-profits, consumers, and other state housing partners. 

VHFA is seeking an individual who will help us to maintain our great reputation, and who demonstrates a strong work ethic, is creative, highly organized, puts customers first, and works well both independently and as a team player. This position represents VHFA’s Homeownership Division at housing-related events around the State.

Named a “Best Small/Medium Place to Work in Vermont” several times by Vermont Business Magazine, VHFA offers a competitive salary and an excellent benefits package.  For a detailed job description and benefits overview, visit www.vhfa.org/careers.

To apply, send cover letter (required), resume, salary requirements and references to the Human Resources Department at HR@vhfa.org by Monday, September 9, 2019.

VHFA is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to a diverse workplace. We highly encourage women, persons with disabilities, and people from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to apply.

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 8/14/2019

Roughly 9,000 Vermont senior households receive some form of financial rental help compared to 8,000 younger households, according to a report recently completed by VHFA on the distribution of rental subsidies by age group.

As the allocating agency for scarce federal and state funds for developing affordable rental housing, VHFA conducted an analysis comparing Vermont seniors’ access to subsidized rental housing to that of younger Vermonters.  The report estimates that nearly 50% of income-eligible Vermont renter households aged 55 and up are currently accessing some form of federal- or state-provided rental support, relative to 30% among younger households.  

Housing assistance is provided to low-income Vermont renters in several ways. The most common way is via an apartment with below market rate rent developed through a public program, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or HUD’s Public Housing program.

About half of the apartments already developed through these programs are restricted to seniors and the other half are available to Vermonters of any age.  VHFA conducted this study in part to assess how many additional apartments made affordable through public subsides should be available exclusively to seniors (rather than to renters of all ages). 

Housing vouchers are another type of assistance that can be used by seniors and non-seniors in a variety of types of rental housing.

The number of seniors living in Vermont is increasing each year and likely to peak in 2030.  Between now and then, approximately 3,000 low-income renter households are likely to age from the non-senior to senior population group. However, the total number of all low-income renters is not expected to increase during this time. Despite the modest increase in senior households, it is unlikely that demand for affordable apartments restricted to seniors will outweigh demand for apartments available to Vermonters of all ages.


By: Mia Watson on 8/12/2019

Executive Director Maura Collins announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has hired Dave Chien of Williston as its new Director of Information Technology (IT).

Chien comes to VHFA from Vermont Legal Aid, where he worked for the past 12 years, most recently as their Senior IT Administrator. He is a graduate of Stony Brook University and the University of Buffalo.

 “We selected Dave from a pool of over 150 applicants for this position,” Collins remarked. “Dave’s experience in nonprofit IT will be a valuable asset to the Agency as we pursue new initiatives.”

In his role as IT Director, Chien will manage all aspects of the Agency’s technology resources, including the network, websites, hardware, and software, as well as improving VHFA’s technology processes and procedures.

VHFA is a non-profit agency created in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 29,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.

By: Mia Watson on 8/8/2019

VHFA recently began partnering with CarShare Vermont to offer its staff access to shared vehicles for business travel. This initiative will allow the Agency to reduce its carbon footprint while making travel more convenient and more affordable for its staff.

VHFA has long encouraged housing development in downtown, walkable areas, with the goal of connecting Vermont renters with jobs, schools and amenities, reducing reliance on cars and decreasing harmful emissions. However, going without a personal vehicle in Vermont can be challenging. Even if Vermonters are able to go without a car or reduce the number of cars in their household, it is often necessary to travel to rural areas that don’t have robust public transportation.

Car sharing services can help bridge these gaps. VHFA serves the entire state of Vermont, and its staff travel hundreds of miles each year to inspect rental housing for compliance, visit construction sites, attend public meetings and offer homebuyer information seminars. The Agency wanted to make it possible for its staff to do this vital work without having to rely on a personal vehicle to travel to Vermont’s far-flung cities and towns.

With the Agency’s partnership with CarShare Vermont, VHFA employees can now bike or take the bus to work in the morning, then take a car to business meetings. As part of its business membership, VHFA staff also have access to personal memberships at no additional cost. Vehicles come equipped with gas cards and free roadside assistance.

The car sharing initiative is one of several VHFA efforts to promote sustainability and employee wellness, including covering the cost of bus passes, comprehensive recycling and composting, on-site bicycle repair clinics, LED lighting and energy efficiancy updates to the building, and reducing printing and paper use.