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By: Mia Watson on 8/2/2019

VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins joined Housing Vermont and Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) in Bristol last week to celebrate the redevelopment of Pleasant Hills. The complex offers 16 affordable one and two bedroom-apartments for seniors in a village setting. The project received the majority of its funding from federal tax credits and loans awarded by VHFA.

Pleasant Hills was first built as affordable housing in 1980. However, after over thirty years of service, the property was in need of updates to improve energy efficiency and accessibility. Housing Vermont acquired the site in 2014 and has partnered with Addison County Community Trust to manage the apartments. Improvements include infrastructure upgrades, weatherization and heating systems replacement and updates to living spaces. Staff from Housing Vermont and ACCT built raised garden beds to hold flowers and vegetables donated by Red Wagon Nursery.

Resident Harvey Hart, Jr., who goes by ‘Junior’, remarked, “I can’t express how it looks around here…It’s lovely and it feels more like home than it ever has.”

All of the apartments receive HUD Section 8 Project Based Assistance, which limits the rent to 30 percent of household income, the federal standard of affordability. In addition, all residents will have access to SASH (Support and Services at Home), a care-coordination program that helps residents live safely, comfortably, and independently. Pleasant Hills is located close to the center of Bristol, with easy access to shopping and other amenities.

Resident Theresa Robidoux said, “This place is a really good home, the best I’ve ever had.”

The $3.3 million project was made possible in part by a generous $290,000 interest-free loan from New England Federal Credit Union that is being administered by VHFA. The project also received $955,500 in equity from federal housing tax credits and a $610,000 permanent loan awarded by VHFA.  The project also received funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME program, and the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program (AHP).

By: Mia Watson on 7/31/2019

Executive Director Maura Collins announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has hired Megan Roush of Northfield and Bill Schrecker of Burlington as Development Underwriters.

Roush comes to VHFA from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, where she served the past four years as a Vermont Housing Loan Specialist and Public Information Officer. Roush is a graduate of Saint Michael’s College.

Bill Schrecker previously served as Family Shelter Coordinator for the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS). Prior to that, he worked as a research analyst at the Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based community loan fund. Schrecker is a graduate of Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.

“We are delighted to have found two candidates with such extensive and varied experience in affordable housing,” Collins remarked.

The two underwriters will analyze prospective multifamily and single-family housing developments applying for financing administered by VHFA.  This includes applications for state and federal housing tax credits and VHFA loans to developers building and renovating affordable rental housing and homeownership projects. 

By: Mia Watson on 7/29/2019

In our increasing complex system of government, housing is one of few policy areas that is still largely decided at the local level. Resident input can have a significant influence on the number and types of homes that are built in a community. However, a study of local governments in Massachusetts reveals that people who participate in planning and zoning meetings often do not match the demographics of their communities as a whole. The study suggests that this lack of representation has contributed to the affordable housing crisis that America is currently facing.

The Massachusetts study, conducted by researchers from the Boston University Initiative on Cities, found that homeowners were considerably more likely to participate in housing-related meetings than renters. Meeting participants were older, were disproportionately men and were disproportionately white compared to the population of the towns that they lived in.

63 percent of meeting participants and public commenters studied opposed housing initiatives, with just 14 percent expressing support while the rest were rated as neutral. White residents were much more likely to oppose new development than other groups. Opponents of new housing often cited raise traffic, environmental and public safety concerns, while supporters highlighted housing affordability issues.

Affordable housing tended to be much more popular among actual voters than meeting participants. 56 percent of Massachusetts voters supported a statewide ballot referendum measure promoting affordable housing, and the measure received majority support in 65 percent of the communities examined in the study. However, it is important to note that voting participation itself tends to be non-representative, especially in local elections, with voters more likely to be higher-income, older and White than non-voters.

Simply put, the very people who are most likely to support and who would most benefit from affordable housing, including renter and low-income households, are missing from the debate. The authors of the Massachusetts study link this tendency to the severe lack of new housing and correspondingly high home prices in most areas of country. 

As Vermont attempts to address its own affordable housing crisis through initiatives like the Zoning for Great Neighborhoods project, its cities and towns will need to harness greater community support for regulatory and land use changes. The authors of this study urge local governments to carefully consider how much meeting participants should influence the development of housing policy and make more of an effort to engage residents who are less likely to attend meetings. At the same time, they also advise municipalities to remove at least some aspects of housing development from public meetings by expanding the types of development that are permitted by right.

By: Mia Watson on 7/25/2019

The Vermont Balance of State Continuum of Care (VT BoS CoC) is now accepting proposals for new or renewed projects to be funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) as part of the FFY2019 CoC Program Notice of Funding Availability. 

Projects should address local housing and services needs in the Vermont BoS CoC geographic area (all counties in Vermont, except Chittenden County), with a priority to serve vulnerable populations including individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness, persons fleeing domestic violence, youth and young adults, families with children under 18, and veterans. Any and all eligible entities, including those that do not currently receive CoC Program funds, are encouraged to apply. There is approximately $4 million in total funding available.

Detailed instructions and application materials are available on The Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness website.  The deadline to submit proposals is Friday, August 16.

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.