By: Mia Watson

Kathleen Stanfield and her children at their home

Over $41 million has been paid on behalf of 5,800 Vermont homeowners to help them stay housed during the pandemic, thanks to the Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program (VHAP). The program helped pay for overdue mortgage, property taxes, and utility bills.

“This program helped support Vermonters through the pandemic, ensuring that more families could stay safely in their homes,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Housing is an important part of Vermont’s long-term recovery, ensuring that we can move forward stronger than before.”

VHAP was funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and overseen by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development. The program was administered by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) and launched in January 2022.  It provided up to $40,000 in assistance per household and also provided free legal and financial counseling and translation services. Although VHAP closed its application portal in June of 2023, VHFA continued to accept applications via a waiting list and made payments to servicers through early 2024. 

VHAP assisted homeowners across every Vermont county. Nine percent of applicants identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), compared to just 3 percent of homeowners being BIPOC. 449 homes were in manufactured home communities. Most households receiving assistance had low or moderate incomes, with the median household earning just $34,492 per year. More information showing who was served by the program is available online.

VHAP was designed to help homeowners who faced financial hardship caused by the pandemic, especially during the early days when the state largely shut down. The program was able to help Kathy Stanfield from Colchester with mortgage, utilities, and homeowner association fees.

“The pandemic was very difficult on our family,” said Stanfield. “While I was able to continue to work from home, my husband who worked in construction was not able to work. My single salary had to cover all the expenses of our home.”

Stanfield’s husband then unexpectedly passed away, leaving her as a single mother with two children and unable to get caught up on past due bills that had accumulated during the pandemic.

“I had an overwhelming feeling that I’ll never get out of this situation,” she shared. “When I first heard about [VHAP], I decided to apply thinking if I could just get a month or two covered we might be able to recover.  I was shocked and thrilled when the initial grant covered the six months that we hadn't been able to pay as well as our condo dues that had lapsed. I am glad that I will never know for sure, but I suspect I would have lost my home [and] selling it and paying rent somewhere would have cost us more.”

Stanfield now says that she is nearly caught up on household bills and feels that she can move forward with her life, although she is still facing increased expenses due to higher insurance and food costs.

“We are grateful to our Congressional delegation for creating this program and have been proud to work with the State to help so many Vermont families find financial stability,” remarked VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “We know that many Vermonters are still struggling with the high costs of housing, and VHFA will continue its mission to provide more safe, decent and affordable homes for low- and moderate-income households.” 

The Vermont Homeowner Assistance Program is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number HAFP-0040 awarded to the State of Vermont by the US Department of the Treasury.

Pictured: Kathleen Stanfield and her children at their home. Photo credit: Storyworkz