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Posted by: Mia Watson on June 14, 2018 - 2:57pm

The latest edition of the annual report on rental housing affordability from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition has found that Vermont has one of the highest gaps in the nation between the cost of rent and renter wages. Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing reports 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.

This estimate is known as the Housing Wage. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a household must earn while working 40 hours a week to be able to rent an apartment at HUD's Fair Market Rent and pay no more than 30% of its income towards housing costs including utilities. In Vermont, Fair Market Rent is $1,165 for a two bedroom apartment. When households pay more than 30% of their income on rent, it can be difficult to afford other basic necessities such as food, transportation, and healthcare.

To afford a two bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent, a Vermont renter would need to earn $22.40 per hour, or about $46,600 annually. Some areas of Vermont are even less affordable, with Chittenden County’s Housing Wage at $27.32 per hour. For context, Vermont minimum wage is $10.50 per hour, with the average Vermont renter earning just $12.85 per hour. This means that thousands of working Vermont households are struggling to find decent, affordable apartments.

Although this problem is widespread throughout the country, Vermont’s affordability gap is particularly severe. The $9.55 gap between the two bedroom Housing Wage in Vermont and the average renter wage is the 5th highest in the nation, higher than in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire. As in other states, Vermont’s lack of affordable rental housing is driven by a lack of existing rental housing stock and limited new development of non-luxury properties.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who wrote the preface to the report, argued that, “The affordable housing crisis demands that we think big and act boldly. We must make a historic and sustained commitment to ensure that every family has an affordable place to live and thrive. This starts with significantly expanding federal investments in affordable housing through programs like the National Housing Trust Fund, the HOME program and other critically important resources.”

For more information, read the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition’s (VAHC) analysis.

Posted by: Mia Watson on June 7, 2018 - 4:24pm

A task force convened by the New Democrat Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, has found that housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and unavailable for many Americans. In the report, Missing Millions of Homes, the Coalition linked the lack of affordable housing to a combination of wage stagnation and decreased construction.

The report found that rents are increasing faster than household incomes in nearly every major housing market, despite a growing economy. Meanwhile, as the employment has increased following the Recession, more formerly unemployed or underemployed workers are once again competing for apartments and home purchases. In the cities with especially high demand, competition over scarce rental housing has forced thousands of low income households out of the area or into homelessness. When low income households can find housing, they are often forced to devote a large portion of their income towards rent, limiting their ability to afford other basic necessities.  

The report also found that homebuilders are producing 30 percent fewer homes today than a decade ago. The causes for the shortfall are complex, but the report identifies several contributing factors, including restrictive zoning and land-use regulations, increased demand for housing in walkable transit-served urban areas, which have limited land available, reduced construction financing availability since the financial crisis, and a limited construction labor pool.

The task force argues that the rate of home construction will need to increase dramatically over the next decade to meet the growing demand. The report suggests a variety of potential strategies, including improving trade policies to decrease the price of building materials, revising zoning policies to encourage denser development, and increasing investment in affordable housing subsidies.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 4, 2018 - 5:09pm

Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) announced today that later this year Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director, will be retiring, after twenty years at the agency’s helm. “As a result of Sarah’s vision and skill thousands of Vermonters have moved into decent, affordable homes since she arrived at VHFA in 1998,” said Randy Amis, chair of VHFA’s Board of Commissioners. “She has expertly led VHFA’s financial activities and programs, built strong partnerships and shared her deep expertise with state and federal policy makers. Vermont is a better place to live thanks to Sarah’s impact.”  

Carpenter’s leadership and inspiration propelled VHFA to a spot among the top five Best Places to Work in Vermont in each of the last three years.  In 2016, the agency was ranked at the top of the list among small and medium sized Vermont companies.

The volume of VHFA mortgages provided to low and moderate-income Vermonters grew by $1.3 billion during her tenure, largely due to Carpenter’s work with VHFA’s staff, board, advisors and partners. Most recently Carpenter worked with legislative leaders to enact a down payment assistance program for first-time home buyers. The program’s popularity remains well beyond original expectations due to the critical need this assistance plays for young renters looking to buy homes in Vermont.

VHFA’s role in creating and rehabilitating much-needed affordable rental apartments also grew dramatically under Carpenter’s leadership. In 2000, VHFA spearheaded a successful effort to encourage Congress to increase caps for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program and private activity bonds. That same year, Carpenter worked with legislators to enact the State Housing Tax Credit program to supplement the federal allocation due to pressing needs statewide for more affordable rental apartments.  These efforts pushed the total number of apartments financed through VHFA up to 8,600.

Carpenter is a native of Burlington, Vermont, and a graduate of UVM and Harvard University.  Prior to VHFA, she served as the Executive Director of Cathedral Square Corp. from 1983-1998. Carpenter has been the recipient of a number of awards including the Vermont YWCA Susan B. Anthony Woman of the Year Award and a NeighborWorks America Government Service Award. She has also served on numerous of boards with federal, state and local organizations including Leading Age, the National Council of State Housing Agencies’, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and Fletcher Allen Healthcare (now the University of Vermont Medical Center).

VHFA’s Board of Commissioners will meet in the next few weeks to plan its strategy for identifying Carpenter’s successor.

Posted by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 4, 2018 - 10:37am

In recognition of her scholarly and professional achievements, VHFA’s Research and Communications Coordinator Mia Watson received the Marshall E. Dimock Award as a graduate of UVM’s Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program. 

The award was presented by MPA program director Christopher Koliba during UVM’s graduation festivities in May 2018.

The criteria for the award are advancement of ethical principles within public administration, evidence of outstanding academic and scholarly activities, commitment to the advancement of the profession of public administration and vision for the field of public administration.

Just a year earlier, VHFA’s Deputy Director Maura Collins won the award for her work as an alumna of the UVM MPA program.  

Marshal E. Dimock was a national pioneer in the field of public administration with deep ties to Vermont and the UVM MPA program.

Posted by: Mia Watson on May 31, 2018 - 11:44am

The Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Boston is coming to Burlington to host a training on the Affordable Housing Program on June 26th. This training is important for any developer or lender who is planning to apply for AHP funds in 2018 or in the future. It will be held at Hotel Vermont (41 Cherry Street, Burlington) from 8:30 to noon. For more details and to register go to their website.

The 2018 funding application period opens on Monday, June 11, four weeks earlier than usual. The program awards grants and low-interest loans through member institutions to organizations promoting homeownership and rental housing for households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median income. Approximately $18.1 million in AHP subsidy is available. Applications are due by Thursday, August 2.

We hope to see you there!