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Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/30/2018

Last week, Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), sat down with Vermont Public Radio’s (VPR) Howard Weiss-Tisman to discuss the results of the annual VPR-Vermont PBS poll. The poll revealed that housing costs are the primary source of financial stress for Vermonters and that respondents believed that lower housing costs would make Vermont significantly more affordable.

With housing rising to the top of the list of concerns for Vermonters, the best place to learn what you can do next is the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference on November 13 and 14 at the Hilton Burlington. Topics will include employer assisted housing, zoning opportunities to promote more development of housing affordable to underserved populations, and the connections between housing, health and education. Register this week  to discover how your community can make affordable housing a reality.  Online conference registration closes this Friday, November 2.

In the poll, 606 Vermont residents were asked which regular living expense created the most financial stress in their lives. 32% of participants selected “Housing costs (e.g. rent or mortgage)” as their greatest concern, by far the most common answer.

According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont has the fifth largest imbalance between average wages and average rents in the nation. The report estimates that for a Vermont renter to be able to afford a modest two bedroom apartment, he or she would need to earn $22.40 per hour, well above the average renter wage. Prices are high for homebuyers as well, with the average home price unaffordable for the average area resident in nearly half of Vermont towns, according to analysis from VHFA.

In the interview, Carpenter discussed a variety of strategies to make housing more affordable. One area that she noted needs more attention is housing quality, which will be covered in detail in a workshop at the conference on November 13 and 14. Vermont’s housing stock is among the oldest in the nation. Even in areas of the state where housing prices are lower, homeowners and landlords may not have the resources to maintain their homes to basic health and safety standards. Carpenter currently chairs the Rental Housing Advisory Board, which was created by the Legislature in 2018 to improve the state’s code enforcement system. Carpenter also called for renewed investment in existing subsidized housing across the state, which needs on-going support to keep apartments up to date.

Poll participants were also asked about different ways that Vermont could be made affordable for residents, including higher paying jobs and lower health care costs. 66% of respondents said that lower housing costs would “help a lot” to make Vermont more affordable, while 21% said that it would “help some”.

Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/29/2018

Governor Phil Scott joined state legislators, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, and VHFA Executive Director Sarah Carpenter in Brattleboro last week to celebrate the groundbreaking of Snow Block apartments. The project will create 18 affordable apartments for low-income Vermonters as part of a 23-unit mixed-income building. The affordable units will be rented permanently at well below market rates. The project was funded in large part by federal low-income housing tax credits awarded by VHFA.

Snow Block will be constructed to achieve Passive House certification, which means it will use much less energy than comparable buildings. The building will feature a rooftop solar array, with no fossil fuels used for everyday heating and cooling. Governor Scott praised Windham & Windsor Housing Trust for their innovation and leadership in developing the project.

The building is also intended to serve as a vehicle for community development, replacing a vacant lot on Flat Street and bringing tenants within walking distance of stores, the library, and transportation. Youth Services will have an office within the building to provide resources to children and families.

Among the funding for the project were $574,000 in federal housing credits awarded by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), which will be sold to investors to raise an estimated $4.9 million in equity for construction. VHFS also awarded the project a construction loan. In total, the $7.4 million project will receive nearly two thirds of its funding from VHFA. Other funding partners included the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which awarded $1.5 million from the state's Housing for All Revenue Bond, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME and Housing Trust Fund programs, and NeighborWorks.

The apartment building will be managed by Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and is expected to be completed by next fall, 2019.

Photo courtesy of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust

Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/26/2018

Vermont Resident Service Coordinators (VRSC) is hosting a training on “Smoke-free Housing Now: Checking in on the Challenges and Successes” on November 28, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the Royalton Academy Building, in South Royalton. This training is sponsored by Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), Vermont Housing Managers Association (VHMA), and Burlington Housing Authority (BHA).

In the training, Burlington Housing Authority will share its experience as the first public housing authority in Vermont to implement a smoke-free policy. Staff from BHA will provide an overview of their implementation plan, resident engagement in the roll-out process, resident resources, and enforcement strategies.  The training will include a problem-solving session with attendees and facilitate discussion to support successful smoke-free housing policy development and compliance. 

The session is open to the public. Admission is $10 per person, payable at the door with cash, check or money order. VRSC and VHMA members are admitted free. Lunch is included for everyone. After the training, VRSC will hold its fall meeting from 1:00-2:00 pm.

Registration is required for this event. Contact Doug Hemmings at dhemmings@maloneyproperties.com with any questions.


Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/24/2018

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) is seeking a Managing Director of Community Development. Named a “Best Small Place to Work in Vermont” for the past three years in a row, VHFA is looking for an individual who will help us to maintain our great reputation, and who demonstrates a strong work ethic, is creative, puts customers first, and works well both independently and as a team player.

In collaboration with Executive Management, this position will provide leadership in the development and implementation of the strategic goals and objectives of the Agency, develop and implement successful business plans for each program area of responsibility, monitor program risks and provide Agency-wide leadership.

VHFA offers a competitive salary and an excellent benefits package. The full position description and a summary of benefits is available at www.vhfa.org/careers. Please send cover letter, resume and references to HR@vhfa.org by 4:00 pm, November 9, 2018. Position will be open until filled.

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.

Posted by: Mia Watson on 10/23/2018

Taking place shortly after the midterm and statewide elections, the 2018 Vermont Statewide Housing Conference on November 13 and 14 will provide many opportunities to get your questions answered about how the election results will affect Vermont.

A legislative breakfast reception on Wednesday the 14th will allow conference attendees to network with state legislators as well as staff from the offices of all three Vermont federal legislators. The winner of the Vermont governor's race has also been invited to address the audience on their vision of housing in Vermont.

During the breakfast, the conference committee will announce the winners of the Housing Hero Awards. The Legislative Housing Hero Award is awarded to a state legislator who has demonstrated a commitment to affordable housing. Recent recipients have included former state representatives Helen Head and Martha Heath, and former state Senator Susan Bartlett.

Afterwards, a series of snap interviews will offer a detailed analysis of the likely direction of housing policy in the wake of the elections. At the federal level, Washington DC insiders Stockton Williams of the National Council of State Housing Agencies and David Lipsetz of the Housing Assistance Council will share their assessments of the impact of the midterm election on the political landscape and what, if any, major messages were made clear by the voting. At the state level, Rebecca Ramos of the Necrason Group will interview Mitzi Johnson, Vermont Speaker of the House, and Katie Buckley, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, to discuss not only who won statewide office but also what the makeup of the Legislature will mean for top issues in 2019. 

You won't want to miss this opportunity to learn about the big topics for the coming legislative sessions and how they relate to housing, so register to attend today.