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VHFA News

Posted by: Mia Watson on April 12, 2018 - 2:56pm

Please join VHFA in celebrating Fair Housing Month this April. This year is special as we mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act.

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, expanding the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VIII of the act, which is commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. The act was passed after a long difficult political and social struggle for equal protection under the law. Advocates in and out of Congress pushed for adoption of a fair housing bill for years but did not achieve passage until one week after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fair housing was one of the central goals for Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act, many communities around the country had laws that explicitly forbade white homeowners from selling to black buyers in order to keep neighborhoods segregated. Mortgage lenders often denied service or raised rates for buyers in majority minority neighborhoods. Landlords could legally refuse to rent to minorities, which often left minority renters with few decent quality housing options.  In response to these injustices, Dr. King helped organize and led open housing marches in Chicago in 1966.

Vermont enacted its own laws prohibiting housing discrimination in 1987. Today, Vermont law protects against discrimination in housing on the basis of all categories listed in the Fair housing Act, as well as age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and receipt of public assistance.

In recognition of this historic anniversary, Governor Phil Scott has issued a proclamation celebrating Vermont’s role as a national leader in expanding housing protections and reaffirming Vermont’s commitment to ensuring that housing is accessible to all.

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Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on March 29, 2018 - 4:53pm

Last week the Vermont House approved H. 922 which includes provisions from an earlier bill (H.766) that expands VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance Program. The bill is now passed over to the Senate and earlier this week was read and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Since the DPA 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. 922 also includes an expansion of the successful Downtown Development Tax Credit program and several other provisions, including a tax on e-cigarettes. VHFA’s Executive Director Sarah Carpenter testified in support of the bill before the House Ways and Means and Commerce Committees and hopes to provide testimony to the Senate Finance Committee in the near future.

Pictured: Rachel, an IT business analyst, is one of the 600 first-time Vermont home buyers who have used the Down Payment Assistance Program since it started in 2015. Photo by P. Detzer. 

 

Posted by: Mia Watson on March 27, 2018 - 4:23pm

Last week, the federal government passed an omnibus bill funding the government for FY 2018.  Funding for housing and homeless assistance programs exceeded what housing advocates had anticipated. Among the spending is a substantial boost to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which will see an increase of 12.5% to the annual state per capita credit allocation for the next four years. In addition, the bill contains $11.15 billion for project-based rental assistance, an increase of $50 million from FY 2017. These funding increases will be extremely helpful in VHFA’s efforts to expand access to decent, affordable housing.

For more information on the bill, including a note from Senator Leahy’s office, read Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition’s (VAHC) summary of the highlights.

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Posted by: Mia Watson on March 23, 2018 - 8:10am

For the third year in a row, VHFA was ranked in the top five Best Places to Work among small sized organizations across the state by Vermont Business Magazine. After receiving the honor of the number one spot in 2016, VHFA was ranked fourth for 2017, and has just been ranked second for 2018.

“This award reflects the excellence of our wonderful staff and their deep commitment to our mission of promoting affordable housing opportunities for Vermonters,” remarked Sarah Carpenter, VHFA Executive Director. “Their dedication and enthusiasm is what makes VHFA a great place to work.”

Awards were presented on Wednesday, March 21st at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Burlington. Sarah Carpenter, Lori Gilding, Office Manager, and Steve Gronlund, Administration & HR Manager joined hundreds of other employers and their staff to celebrate the 50 companies being honored as the Best Places to Work in Vermont. After an hour of socializing and hors d’oeuvres, several local dignitaries spoke, including Governor Phil Scott. Each company’s representatives then went to the stage to receive their award and have their photo taken with the Governor. 

Winners were chosen by Vermont Business Magazine from companies across the state. The results of an employee survey accounted for 75 percent of each nominated company's score, while the remaining 25 percent of the score consisted of criteria including workplace policies, compensation, benefits packages, and demographics. Finalists were split into three categories -- small companies with 15-99 employees, medium companies with 100-249 employees, and large companies with 250 or more employees.

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Posted by: Mia Watson on March 21, 2018 - 8:18am

In January, Vermont Housing Finance Agency was instrumental in the sale of nearly $37 million in Vermont Property Transfer Tax Revenue Bonds. Proceeds from these bonds, sold as sustainability bonds due to their intended use, support the Housing for All initiative to construct and preserve affordable housing across Vermont. Project development is underway. Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) has already awarded proceeds from the housing bonds to 15 planned affordable housing projects.

Projects include an apartment building in Brattleboro, where the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust will build 23 rental units. The energy efficient building will be located near essential services and transportation, and will offer a community room, office space for service providers, and a small commercial space. The apartments will be affordable to low-income residents with incomes from 50-120% of median income. Of the $6.8 million total cost of development, $3.9 million will be supported by the proceeds of the housing bonds.

VHCB has awarded $425,000 in housing bond proceeds towards the rehabilitation of the historic Woolson Block building in downtown Springfield (pictured) by the Springfield Housing Authority. The project will create 15 affordable apartments and 4 units of transitional housing for youth at risk of homelessness between the ages of 18 to 24, along with an apartment for a live-in supervisor. This project will also be supported by federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits awarded by VHFA.

Proceeds from the bonds will also fund $600,000 in accessibility improvements to homes and apartments statewide by the Vermont Center for Independent Living. These efforts will help seniors and those with disabilities to stay in their homes and remain part of their communities.

"We were very pleased to use our experience working with financial partners and investors on the bond sale to maximize the funds raised for the Housing for All initiative," remarked VHFA's Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “It is exciting to see the bond proceeds in action with these projects”  

Revenue from bonds will ultimately construct or rehabilitate 550-650 homes statewide over the next two to three years. To learn more about these projects, visit VHCB’s website or read their 2017 Annual Report.

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