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Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/4/2018

Last week, affordable housing partners and city officials celebrated the groundbreaking of Casavant Overlook apartments off of East Allen Street in Winooski’s Gateway District. The project is being developed by Green Mountain Development Group and will be managed on-site by Summit Properties. Casavant Overlook will offer 39 mixed-income apartments, 27 of which will be affordable for low-income households. In addition, four of the affordable units will have access to on-site services provided by the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to support formerly homeless and at-risk households.

“This project reflects the growing understanding that previously homeless households benefit from continued support,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “The partnership with COTS helps set the stage for their success.”

The $9.9 million project received nearly all of its funding from Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), including $698,000 in federal housing credits, which were sold to investors to raise an estimated $6.3 million in equity for construction. VHFA also awarded the project a $2.9 million loan. The remainder of the project was funded by private equity.

Located half a mile from downtown Winooski, Casavant Overlook offers convenient access to public transportation. The building will contain a fitness room, community space, and underground parking.

Construction will continue throughout the winter. The building is expected to be completed in September 2019.

Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/2/2018

The Board of Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) announced today the selection of Maura Collins of Essex Junction for the position of Executive Director. Collins will step into her new role on the first of the year when Sarah Carpenter, the agency's Executive Director for the past 20 years, retires. Since joining VHFA in 2002, Collins has held several positions at the agency, most recently as Deputy Director.

After an extensive national search, with over 45 applicants, the Board unanimously approved Collins.

"The Board was pleased to discover that the best candidate was so close to home... It's affirming of Sarah's legacy and points to VHFA's promising future," noted Randy Amis, Chair of VHFA's Board of Commissioners.

"I look forward to advancing VHFA's mission of financing and promoting affordable housing," Collins said. "The state continues to face a shortage of homes affordable to many Vermonters and I am excited to lead VHFA as it creatively addresses these complex issues."

In her most recent role as VHFA's Deputy Director, Collins led the agency’s core programs of Homeownership, Multifamily Development and Financing, Multifamily Asset Management and Compliance, and Information Technology. In this role, she developed and implemented strategic goals and business plans, maximized capital resources for VHFA programs, and developed new business opportunities.

With the depth and breadth of her experience, Collins is a highly sought-after advisor to other organizations and communities on housing policy, homeless and supportive housing efforts. In a prior role at VHFA, Collins was Director of Policy, Planning and Administration where she was a state and federal legislative liaison and managed the Agency's research, communications, human resources, and administration departments.

In 2012, Collins was named as one of the top 40 professionals under 40 years old by Vermont Business Magazine. Collins is Chair of the Board of Directors of Pathways Vermont, a homeless service agency pioneering a rural version of the Housing First model.  Prior to joining VHFA, Collins worked at the Technical Assistance Collaborative in Boston, MA, a consulting firm that focuses on the intersection of affordable housing, health care, human services policy and systems development.

Collins has a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Vermont and served on UVM's faculty, teaching a graduate-level housing policy course. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Buffalo.

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.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 10/1/2018

HUD announced last week that it will extend the multifamily risk-sharing initiative with the Federal Financing Bank for VHFA and other eligible U.S. housing finance agencies (HFAs). Created in 2015, this initiative has provided much-needed access for HFAs to the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank.

In Vermont, this initiative has helped fund the development of 665 safe, affordable apartments for low income households in 6 communities: Colchester, Rutland, Bennington, Burlington, South Burlington and Bristol.  Financing via this initiative is pending for another 230 apartments in Vermont.  

Thanks to the extension, VHFA can continue to work with affordable rental housing developers to make greater use of this low, fixed-rate, long-term permanent financing.  Due to the importance of this source of financing for affordable apartments, the National Council of State Housing Agencies advocated for its extension

The initiative was originally scheduled to cease accepting new applications for commitments on September 30, 2018, but will now accept new applications for commitments through the end of the year. 

The Federal Housing Agency (FHA) at HUD intends to review the program’s effectiveness, and whether market conditions justify its continued operation.  According to HUD, the results of this review will determine whether and in what form FHA would continue the program beyond December 31, 2018. If the program is extended for a limited time period beyond 2018, HUD would identify the parameters under which it would be phased out. 

Pictured: McAuley Square in Burlington, Vermont is home to 74 seniors and young families thanks to the HFA-HUD Federal Financing Bank risk share program.

Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/1/2018

Don't miss your chance to get the discounted early bird rate by registering for the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference by Friday, October 5.   

This year’s conference will focus on Vermont communities and how they can impact housing affordability. In addition to hearing from national and state leaders, this conference offers an exciting menu of specialized, interactive workshops focusing on tools and best practices for municipalities, case studies and connections between housing and big-impact issues such as health care, opioids and schools.

Check out the conference website for a full list of workshops and other agenda items and register today!

Posted by: Mia Watson on 9/26/2018

A recent article in the Burlington Free Press highlights Vermont’s stagnating household incomes, raising concerns over the strength of its economy and the ability of its residents to afford housing.

UVM economics professor Art Woolf writes that according to the 2017 estimates recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont’s median household income is $57,513, ranking it 27th in the country. However, the Vermont household median income actually decreased by 2.4 percent from 2016, just as the national median household income increased by 2.5 percent.

During the same period that median household income fell, Vermont home prices have been on the rise, increasing 2.4 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. This trend is pronounced in areas experiencing population growth, including Chittenden County, where primary home sale prices increased 5.7 percent. Chittenden County median gross rents also increased by 7.5 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to Census Bureau estimates. 

This increasing imbalance between the cost of housing and household incomes has negative effects on the Vermont economy at large. A lack of affordable housing can make it difficult for employers to attract skilled workers. In addition, when households spend most of their income on housing, they have less to spend on other goods and services, which reduces overall economic growth.

It is unclear why Vermont incomes are not increasing along with the rest of the nation. Woolf speculates that there could be a variety of factors. Vermont has a higher proportion of seniors and one-person households than other states, both of which tend to have lower household incomes, and which could account for some of the disparity. However, it is also possible that despite Vermont’s low unemployment rate, the employment growth may not be occurring in high wage jobs.

Due to the complexity of our economy, it is difficult for policy makers to implement programs that directly increase incomes. However, investing in affordable housing programs such as VHFA’s mortgage programs and rental housing development has been demonstrated to contribute to economic growth by increasing spending and employment, providing a stable base of tax revenue for local governments, and by increasing the financial stability and earning potential of individual households.