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By: Mia Watson on 7/24/2019

Last week, VHFA joined Shires Housing and Housing Vermont to celebrate the long-awaited opening of Monument View Apartments in downtown Bennington. Named for its outlook over the Bennington Battle Monument, the complex includes 24 affordable one and two bedroom-apartments. The project received the majority of its funding from federal tax credits awarded by VHFA.

Despite the urgent need for affordable housing in the area, the project faced opposition from local residents who raised concerns the project would increase traffic, negatively impact the historic character of the neighborhood and strain municipal services and the local school system. Those objections were all rejected by a judge, allowing construction to begin in March 2018.

Affordable housing development often encounters these types of local opposition, but research has repeatedly shown that affordable housing does not increase crime, nor does it negatively impact local schools in any measurable way. In fact, new affordable housing development can actually increase property values in the area. Affordable housing can also easily be designed to fit the community it is built in, and Monument View consists of seven small, energy-efficient duplexes and flats in a neighborhood arrangement that smoothly blends with the surrounding structures.

Monument View Apartments will serve both low and moderate-income Vermont households. The 20 apartments directly funded by VHFA-awarded tax credits are targeted to Vermonters earning 50 to 60 percent of the area median income, or $36,800 to $44,160 for a family of four, with rents capped accordingly. In most subsidized developments, any non-tax credit-funded apartments are rented at market rate. However, due to the availability of funding from Vermont’s Housing for All Revenue Bond issued through VHFA, the remaining four apartments are available for moderate-income Vermonters earning 80-120 percent of median income, or $58,900 to $88,320 for a four-person family.

The $7.3 million project received $525,000 in federal housing tax credits awarded by VHFA.  The tax credits were purchased by TD Bank, raising an estimated total of $4.6 million in equity for construction. This project also received funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME program.

By: Mia Watson on 7/18/2019

Two new reports show that rental housing in Vermont is unaffordable for many workers, not only for those earning minimum wage, but also for skilled middle-income workers.

Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, the annual report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC), reveals that a Vermont worker would need to earn $18.18 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment. This figure is known as the Housing Wage, the hourly wage a household must earn while working full time to afford a decent apartment at fair market rent, while spending no more than 30% of their income on housing expenses. Most renters earn far less than that amount, with the average Vermont renter earning just $13.40 per hour.

Finding affordable housing is even more difficult for workers earning the minimum wage of $10.78. No Vermont county has fair market rents even for the smallest, studio apartments that are affordable for minimum wage workers. In the greater Burlington area, which has the highest housing prices in the state, a minimum wage worker would need to work nearly 64 hours per week to afford a studio apartment. 

The full data on 2019 fair market rents and Housing Wages has been added to the Community Profiles on HousingData.org, a free housing information resource managed by VHFA. The site also features a database of the state’s subsidized rental housing, which helps low-income Vermont households find apartments that they can afford.

While the affordable housing shortage hits minimum wage workers the hardest, housing affordability is a challenge for even moderate-income Vermont workers. The National Housing Conference’s (NHC) Paycheck to Paycheck report finds that wages for many jobs would not be enough to afford rent for a one bedroom apartment in the Burlington metro area, including child care workers, home health aides, security guards and bank tellers.

Many skilled workers, like carpenters, police officers, teachers, mechanics and registered nurses could afford rent for a small apartment, but would not be able to afford a larger apartment suitable for a family or down payment on a house on their incomes alone. Although many workers might be part of two-earner households, which would expand their purchasing power, the report doesn’t take in account the high cost of childcare and student loans, which can easily exceed a worker’s entire salary.

It is clear the housing market in Vermont is failing to meet to the needs of many households. One solution to this problem is more housing. Vermont’s low rate of housing development over the past two decades has led to low rental vacancy rates and low inventories of home for sale, both of which tend to drive up prices. To reverse this trend, Vermont will need to remove regulatory barriers that inhibit housing development as well as investing more resources in subsidized housing programs.


By: Mia Watson on 7/15/2019

As the Collaborative Applicant for the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance (CCHA) Continuum of Care, the Community & Economic Development Office (CEDO) is now accepting proposals for new, renewed, expanded or bonus projects to receive 2019 Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

CCHA is soliciting proposals that address housing and service priorities established through the Continuum of Care, with priority for serving homeless vulnerable populations including persons experiencing chronic homelessness, persons fleeing domestic violence, unaccompanied youth and families with children. There is approximately $1 million in funding available for projects to serve those experiencing homelessness and over $82,700 in bonus project funding.

Detailed instructions and application forms are available on CCHA's website.  The deadline to submit proposals is Friday, August 9

By: Mia Watson on 7/12/2019

Earlier this week, the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) launched the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project, an initiative aimed at helping Vermont cities and towns break down the regulatory barriers preventing them from meeting the housing needs of Vermonters.

Although many Vermont cities and towns have acknowledged the need for more housing, including a variety of different home sizes, home types, and price points, municipalities often have outdated zoning requirements that constrain new development or redevelopment. It was very common in the 1960s and 1970s for towns to adopt boilerplate zoning codes that heavily prioritized suburban development over downtown infill, and many municipalities have not completely overhauled these codes since then. These codes often require unnecessarily large lot sizes and other restrictions that make it difficult to build the walkable neighborhoods close to work, schools, and services that both millennials and seniors want to live in.

Many towns and cities are interested in reevaluating their zoning bylaws to promote housing and lower costs associated with development, but do not have the staff resources to devote to the project. Zoning for Great Neighborhoods will help provide guidance and model bylaw language as well as launching a campaign to heighten public awareness of the need for flexible housing options and updated zoning codes.

Led by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project is supported by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, AARP-VT, and the Vermont, Green Mountain and National Association of Realtors. The project will receive technical assistance from the nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and Vermont’s Regional Planning Commissions.

Mallory Baches, Program Manager for CNU, remarked, “The main goal of this project is to meet communities where they are: assess local capacity, provide strategic support, and offer practical solutions that enable great neighborhoods.” 

The project began with DHCD’s survey of municipalities and housing stakeholders to identify factors that add to the cost of housing and undermine neighborhood vitality, the results of which will be released in the coming weeks. The project’s next steps will involve meeting with communities, analyzing typical local regulations, and proposing alternatives that can support the types of homes needed. The full toolkit for municipalities will be completed by this spring, 2020. 

By: Mia Watson on 7/10/2019

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is seeking a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This position is responsible for the direction, management and oversight of the financial, accounting, audit, Information Technology (IT) and investment areas of VHFA. The CFO oversees the development and implementation of financing structures that support the Agency’s loan programs, including the sale and management of VHFA tax-exempt and taxable bonds.

VHFA is seeking applicants with a problem-solving approach and strong ability to analyze, interpret and present financial concepts and conclusions. This position manages a team of financial professionals with diverse responsibilities.  Must be highly organized, able to set priorities and meet the goals of the Agency. Our next CFO will be tasked with working with a team to identify new sources of capital to support our lending programs. The CFO also assists with the implementation of strategic initiatives for the Agency as a member of the Executive Management team.

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, July 29, 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.