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By: Mia Watson on 2/25/2019

VHFA is proud to recognize staff who participated in the Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) in 2018.

As part of our mission to finance and promote affordable, safe, and decent housing opportunities, VHFA encourages its employees to lend their voluntary support to programs that positively impact the quality of life within our communities. The Employee Volunteer Program allows all regular VHFA employees one additional day of paid Combined Time Off each calendar year to volunteer in a community program.

VHFA staff member Erin Philbrick wrote, “My sons Aiden, Quinn and I went to volunteer at the Franklin County Animal Rescue (FCAR). We helped with all the routine chores of caring for the sheltered cats – feeding, cleaning cages, doing laundry and socializing with them.  Of course we all enjoyed the socializing part the most, but it also felt good to give our time to help make their time in temporary shelter more bearable.”

Ten VHFA staff volunteered a total of 64 hours in 2018, a value of over $2,700. Participation in the program has increased steadily over the past three years.

Below are some of the organizations where VHFA staff have volunteered:

Pathways Vermont

Mount Mansfield Universalist Unitarian Fellowship

American Red Cross

Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Projects

US Maher Friends

LUND Kids A Part

Franklin County Animal Rescue

Dragonheart Vermont

Youth Services Opportunities Project

By: Mia Watson on 2/22/2019

The Vermont Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIAVT) is partnering with the Vermont Chapter of the Constructions Specifications Institute (CSI VT) to offer pro-bono design and planning input for Vermont nonprofits, municipalities, and community-based groups.

Project proposals will be reviewed during ACX VT, the annual Vermont architecture and construction conference, which will take place on May 21, 2019 at the Hilton in Burlington. ACX VT will feature a workshop in which organizations can propose projects to design professionals for input and collaboration. These proposals must be for a specific project, which must address a stated need that exists in Vermont. ACX will review, rank, and select a proposal to receive design and planning services. Inclusive design projects that foreground equitable approaches to addressing race, gender, and socioeconomic status in the built environment will be prioritized.

To find out if your organization and project qualify, and to learn how to apply, visit the conference website. Proposals must be received by March 15, 2019.

Pictured: Elm Place, a senior apartment building developed and owned by Cathedral Square Corporation. The building, which won a national award for energy-efficiency, was designed by Duncan Wisniewski Architecture of Burlington

By: Mia Watson on 2/15/2019

America’s housing stock was primarily built for nuclear families, yet fewer and fewer households fit into that category, according to Making Room: Housing for a Changing America, a new report from AARP. The report argues that communities need to create housing that is more affordable and accessible for single-person, senior, and multi-generational households.    

Today, nuclear families (two parents and their children) account for just 20 percent of U.S. households. The largest group demographic is single adults who live alone, which at 28 percent, outnumbers nuclear and single-parent families combined. However, America’s housing stock does not reflect the composition of its households. More than 80 percent of the nation’s apartments and houses are built with two, three or four bedrooms, and there are more than twice as many two-bedroom apartments as there are studios and one-bedrooms combined.

This trend is even more pronounced in Vermont, where 30% of households are one-person, yet only 15% of the housing stock is made up of studio or one bedroom apartments or homes, according to 2017 Census Bureau estimates. Increased investment in smaller homes and apartments, which cost less to build, would likely result in more affordable housing choices. Housing is currently unaffordable across most areas of the state. To be able to afford the 2018 median home price of $217,500, a household would need to earn at least $68,635. However, the median household income for Vermonters is just $57,513. Meanwhile, a one bedroom apartment at market rate is not affordable for a worker earning minimum wage in any Vermont county.

The AARP report suggests that overly restrictive zoning laws are responsible for much of the imbalance in the housing stock. Large minimum unit and lot sizes, excessive parking requirements, and expensive permitting processes increase the cost of development, making it difficult for developers to turn a profit on smaller, less expensive houses and apartments.

The report also notes that America’s population of older adults is growing rapidly. By 2030, more than 1 in 5 people in the United States will be age 65 or older. In Vermont, households led by someone age 65 to 74 are the fastest growing demographic group. An AARP survey found that the large majority of older Americans would like to remain in their current homes and communities as long as possible, but most homes in the United States are not designed for aging in place. The report advocates designing more accessible structures, and for communities to promote multigenerational living and home-sharing.  


By: Mia Watson on 2/7/2019

Governor Phil Scott has appointed Katie Buckley of Brattleboro and Fred Baser of Bristol to Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA)’s Board of Commissioners.

Until recently, Katie Buckley served as Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). In that role she sat on VHFA’s Board as the appointed designee for Michael Schirling, Secretary of Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Buckley now works as Development Director for M&S Development, a community development management firm in Brattleboro. Buckley became the new Chair of the VHFA Board of Commissioners this month.

“Katie has consistently supported VHFA programs and our mission to improve housing affordability. She was instrumental in building support for the Housing for All Revenue Bond in 2017, and has championed VHFA’s Down Payment Assistance program,” said VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “Her prior experience as a former town administrator, housing trust development officer, regional planning commission board member, and VHFA Board member will be invaluable.”

Fred Baser is a former State Representative representing Bristol who served on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development. Baser has served on the boards of several other Vermont institutions, including the Bristol Selectboard, the Addison County Economic Development Board, and the Addison County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Baser is a Certified Financial Planner at Bristol Financial Services, which he founded in 1987.

“Fred was a champion of housing programs during his time in the Vermont House, and we are pleased to have him join the Board,” remarked Collins. “His financial expertise and familiarity with the legislative process are great assets for VHFA’s Board.”

There are nine members of VHFA’s Board of Commissioners. They include four ex officio members and five members appointed by the Governor of Vermont, representing private and public lending, real estate, housing and community interests. Buckley and Baser will replace L. Randolph Amis and Dagyne Canney on the Board.

“We are losing two very dedicated leaders,” observed Collins. “Randy knows our partners well, is a strong leader, and recently devoted a tremendous amount of his time during the search process that followed the retirement announcement by VHFA’s former Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. Dagyne has served on VHFA’s board for the past 24 years and brought a lot of professional and institutional knowledge to her role.”

The VHFA Board of Commissioners passed two resolutions at its most recent board meeting, thanking Amis and Canney for their service to VHFA and dedication to the mission of financing and promoting affordable, safe and decent housing.

By: Mia Watson on 1/31/2019

Vermont home prices reached new highs in 2018, continuing a four year trend of growth. However, household incomes have not kept pace, making it increasingly difficult for low and middle-income Vermonters to become homeowners.

According to data from Vermont Property Transfer Tax records, the median price of a primary home in Vermont increased 3.6%, from $210,000 in 2017 to $217,500 in 2018. Prices increased more rapidly in fast-growing areas of the state like Chittenden County, which saw a 5% increase in home prices from last year. The number of homes sold in Vermont picked up slightly from 2017, to the highest level since the recession, but overall volume remains 35% lower than the peak year pre-recession. A low inventory of homes tends to increase competition among homebuyers, driving up prices.

At the same time home prices have increased, wages for most Vermonters have remained stagnant for years, according to the Public Assets Institute. To be able to afford the 2018 median home price of $217,500, a household would need to earn at least $68,635. However, the median household income for Vermonters is just $57,513, according to 2017 Census Bureau estimates. A lack of affordable housing may prevent employers from attracting skilled workers, hindering economic growth. 

The imbalance between incomes and prices can make it difficult to purchase a home, particular for first-time buyers. Fortunately, Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s homeownership programs can help young 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.