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By: Mia Watson on 6/27/2019

Earlier this week, local leaders, housing developers and new residents gathered in White River Junction to celebrate the opening of Wentworth Community Housing. The project, developed by Twin Pines Housing and Housing Vermont, created 30 one and two bedroom apartments, 21 of which will be rented at rates affordable to low income Vermonters. The project received the majority of its funding from federal tax credits and a loan awarded by VHFA.

Wentworth Community Housing will help respond to the desperate need for housing in the Upper Valley, which has a rental vacancy rate of just 1.5 percent. Although the area is a major job hub, area employers report that a lack of affordable housing has become a major challenge in attracting and retaining workers, potentially hindering the economic growth of the region.

The 21 subsidized apartments at Wentworth Community Housing will have rents affordable for households making less than 60 percent of the area median income, which would be $34,115 or less. These affordable apartments include five homes for formerly homeless and at-risk households, which will receive supportive services from The Upper Valley Haven and Veterans Affairs.

One new resident, Jill Aube, told NBC5 news, "I just feel absolutely blessed to find something like this that's in my price range that I won't have to worry about counting every penny or paying heating oil."

The $9.7 million project received over two-thirds of its funding from VHFA, including $645,000 in federal tax credits, which were sold to investors to raise an estimated total of $5.7 million in equity for construction, as well as a $700,000 permanent loan. This project also received funding from Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME program.

Residents will begin moving in on July 9.

Photo courtesy of Twin Pines Housing

By: Mia Watson on 6/25/2019

Last week, the state increased funding for affordable homeownership when Governor Phil Scott signed a bill passed by the Legislature which will add over a million dollars for homeowners in Vermont.

Revenue Bill H.541 increases the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit program by $250,000 for FY20. This increase is expected to result in just under $1.2 million more for affordable homeownership initiatives once the tax credits are sold to investors.

Half of this money will support the Down Payment Assistance program (DPA) administered by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA). Since 2015, VHFA’s ASSIST DPA program has helped over 1,000 Vermonters and their families purchase their first homes. VHFA estimates that an additional 230 households will become homebuyers as a result of the funding increase.

The other half of the Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit program funding will subsidize the creation or rehabilitation of affordable homes for ownership, including energy efficient manufactured housing that can replace old and inefficient mobile homes.

“Owning a home makes young households more likely to stay in the state, and expanding this program will help employers attract and retain the workers needed for Vermont to thrive,” remarked Maura Collins, VHFA’s Executive Director.

“Becoming a homeowner helps build long-term wealth,” Collins continued. “Getting a 30-year mortgage when you’re 30 means it’s possible to have a home paid off by the time you may retire. However, Vermont’s high home prices makes it difficult for many households to afford their first homes and they delay their purchase.”

The median Vermont home sold for $215,000 in 2018, but households earning the median income of $58,000 would only be able to afford a home price of $197,500

The new funding for the state’s homeownership programs help fills this gap, enabling Vermont families to afford to become homeowners. VHFA’s DPA program, called its ASSIST program, offers up to $5,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance, which can often be one of the most significant obstacles to homeownership.

By: Mia Watson on 6/19/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) will be holding a series of outreach meetings to seek comments on the draft 2020 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The QAP is a compilation of IRS mandates, national best practices and state housing priorities that sets eligibility and criteria for awarding state and federal tax credits to developers of affordable housing.

VHFA’s proposed changes to the QAP include significant formatting changes to improve the structure and readability of the document. Among the major policy changes proposed are income averaging in LIHTC projects, updated green building standards and changes to compliance requirements and credit allocation amounts for supportive housing for homeless households. The draft 2020 QAP as well as a memo summarizing the changes are available on VHFA’s website. Following the outreach meetings and consideration of public feedback, the draft QAP will be presented to the Joint Committee on Tax Credits and eventually the VHFA Board of Commissions.

VHFA invites the public to join staff to discuss the proposed changes at a series of outreach meetings on the following dates:

  • June 28, 2019

         11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

   Manchester Town Offices, 6039 Main Street, Manchester, VT

  • July 10, 2019

         11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

   VHFA offices, 164 St. Paul St., Burlington, VT

   (VHFA will have a conference line available for this meeting only. Please call 802-652-3415 for details.)

  • July 24, 2019

   10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

   Randolph Town Offices, 7 Summer Street, Randolph, VT

  • July 24, 2019 (same day)

   2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

   St. Johnsbury Academy, 1000 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT

   The Charles Hosmer Morse Center for the Arts, Stuart Black Box Theatre


Please RSVP a week prior to the meeting you'd like to attend by emailing Victoria Johnson at vjohnson@vhfa.org.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the QAP and you cannot make a meeting, please do not hesitate to contact Seth Leonard or Josh Slade at (802) 864-5743.

Pictured: French Block in Montpelier. French Block was developed using state and federal housing tax credits awarded by VHFA

By: Mia Watson on 6/10/2019

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) is now accepting applications for 2019 for two different programs that promote development and revitalization of Vermont’s downtowns.

The Downtown and Village Center tax credit program has $2.6 million in state income tax credits available for projects that enhance the historic character and improve building safety of older commercial and community buildings in Vermont’s designated downtown areas and village centers. Multifamily rental housing is an eligible use. These credits can be combined with the Federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit (RITC).

Among the 2018 tax credit recipients was the historic Woolson Block in Springfield, which is being rehabilitated by Springfield Housing Authority and Housing Vermont to provide affordable apartments to low-income renters and formerly homeless youth. The project also received separate funding from VHFA.

Instructions on how to apply for the Downtown and Village Center tax credits are available on ACCD’s website.

The Vermont Sales Tax Reallocation program allows municipalities and the developer of qualified projects to jointly apply to the Downtown Board for a reallocation of sales taxes on construction materials. Qualified projects must be located within a designated downtown district and reallocated taxes must be used by the municipality to support the qualified project. Multifamily rental housing is an eligible use. Instructions on how to apply are available on ACCD’s website.

Applications for both of these programs are due Monday July 1, 2019.

By: Mia Watson on 5/28/2019

Newly released data from the 2019 Point-in-Time Count showed 1,089 people experiencing homelessness in Vermont on a single evening this winter, which represents a 16 percent decrease from last year. However, the number of chronically homeless Vermonters increased substantially from 2018 to 2019, prompting concerns that existing services may be inadequate to support homeless households.

The data comes from the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count on January 23rd conducted by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance. The annual survey attempts to count homeless individuals and families, including people in shelters, transitional housing, hotel rooms purchased using public funding or living outdoors. It does not count those at risk of homelessness or temporarily living with friends or family. Although the PIT count is the one of the best sources available, it inevitably underrepresents the total extent of homelessness in our state. In 2017, the total number of homeless individuals who received services throughout the calendar year was roughly three times the number counted in the PIT count.

There were many signs of progress in the 2019 PIT results, with a decrease from 2018 in the number of homeless children, families, veterans and households fleeing domestic violence. At the same time, the number of both chronically homeless households grew from 152 to 170 and the number of unsheltered households increased from 63 to 102. Chronic homelessness describes people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year while struggling with conditions including serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.

Permanent supportive housing, which pairs affordable housing with case management and supportive services, is essential for addressing chronic homelessness. The number of new apartments built to provide permanent supportive housing has been increasing in Vermont over the past several years, but funding for supportive services has not kept pace. Since 2012, Vermont has missed out on approximately $1.4 million in rental assistance for homeless and at-risk households, due to the inability to match households with local service providers, many of whom lack the capacity to serve additional households.

Completely ending homelessness in our communities will require increased investment in social services to support vulnerable, high-needs households.