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By: Mia Watson on 1/17/2019

Last week, VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins spoke on a housing panel at the Vermont Economic Conference in Burlington. She was joined by Jonathan Slason of Resource Systems Group, Inc. and moderator Leslee MacKenzie of Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty.

Collins and Slason emphasized the fact that housing is a significant part of Vermont’s economy, typically accounting for 15-18% of Vermont’s GDP, which was $32.5 billion in 2017.  This includes construction and remodeling of homes, real estate activities, rents, and utilities paid by homeowners and renters. Collins described how a community’s housing stock can produce additional economic benefits for local businesses if it provides opportunities for employees to live near their jobs and spend no more than a third of their income for housing.

Collins discussed how the wages of top-growing occupations in Vermont are not high enough to afford prevailing housing prices. Wages continue to stagnate both in Vermont, even as rents and home prices increase. Food preparers, personal care aides, and RNs have the largest number of of new jobs in the state in recent years, yet none of these occupations have a median wage high enough to afford to buy a median-priced Vermont home.

Of particular concern is the millennial generation, which has now entered peak homebuying ages of 25 to 34. A recent report from the Urban Institute finds that the national homeownership rate of millennials in this age group was 37 percent in 2015, which is 8 percent lower than the homeownership rate of Gen Xers and baby boomers when they occupied that age bracket. The Urban Institute estimates that if the homeownership rate for millennials had stayed the same as previous generations, there would be 3.4 million more homeowners today. The report suggests that the most common causes are delayed marriage, high levels of debt, and a greater share of the population living in high-cost areas.

Vermont’s population growth is essentially flat, particularly among young households. High housing costs may be a significant factor preventing the state from attracting and retaining millennials. This has ripple effects across the entire economy, including making it difficult for employers to bring skilled workers to our area.

Fortunately, Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s homeownership programs can help young households afford their first home. VHFA’s ASSIST program offers up to $5,000 in down payment assistance, which can often be one of the most significant obstacles to homeownership.

Slides from the presentation are available on VHFA's website

By: Leslie Black-Plumeau on 1/15/2019

Due to its upward pressure on home prices, VHFA urged the South Burlington City Council this week to end the ban on home building known as Interim Zoning.  South Burlington adopted the Interim Zoning Bylaw on November 13, 2018 after protests about future home building proposed within the City.

Next to Burlington, South Burlington has been the largest community in Vermont for many years. Since 2010, South Burlington experienced modest annual housing stock growth of 2%, similar to Essex, Shelburne and Williston.  With other parts of the state facing population and economic decline, allowing for growth near jobs is considered by many to be essential for local and regional economic vitality.

When housing construction is allowed to meet demand from potential home buyers, the market and home prices remain stable.  But when development is unduly constrained, prices often rise, quickly outpacing wage growth, especially in areas experiencing growing residential demand. Although local land use regulations are not the only reason for rising home prices, they are a factor municipalities can control.

Despite its focus on new homes, South Burlington’s interim zoning bylaw limits opportunities for Vermonters across the income spectrum due to a process referred to as “filtering.” New, privately developed homes are rarely affordable to middle income households but the older, prior homes of new home buyers often are. If an existing City resident wants to move to a newly constructed home here, but finds too limited a supply to meet their needs, they may not move.  Allowing the private market to build sufficient move-up options frees up an existing home for a middle or lower income buyer.

Residential development restrictions can exacerbate already low inventories of for-sale homes. The number of homes sold in South Burlington each year fell from 380 in 2013 to 309 in 2017.  Few options for buyers puts upward pressure on prices, reducing affordability for much-needed workers in growing employment sectors.

By: Mia Watson on 1/11/2019

2018 was another great year for Vermont Housing Finance Agency, continuing its commitment to financing and promoting affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters.

As in previous years, VHFA was the single largest source of funding for affordable rental housing development in the state, including $35 million in tax credit equity and $2.6 million in loans. Those investments went towards 16 different multifamily housing developments, which created or rehabilitated 441 apartments across Vermont. VHFA staff continued to monitor 8,500 existing apartments across the state for program compliance, property maintenance, and safety and affordability for residents.

VHFA was also instrumental in generating $37 million in new funding for affordable housing through its role in the issuance of Vermont Property Transfer Tax Revenue Bonds in 2018. These sale of the bonds raising nearly $2 million more than expected before the sale. Proceeds from these bonds are already being put to work across all over the state by our local partners through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Housing for All initiative. 


In fiscal year 2018, VHFA financed $70 million in home mortgages to help 433 households move into their own homes. VHFA homebuyers are primarily young families purchasing their first home. VHFA helps these homebuyers purchase homes with less financial strain through programs like the ASSIST down payment assistance program and other closing cost savings.

The dedication and enthusiasm and commitment of VHFA's staff was also celebrated in a number of different areas. For the third year in a row, VHFA was ranked in the top five Best Places to Work among small sized organizations across the state by Vermont Business Magazine. VHFA staff continued to fundraise for United Way of Northwest Vermont, and was honored with its Affinity Award, which recognizes organizations with the highest percentage of participation in their industry sector. VHFA was also recognized by the New England Resident Service Coordinators (NERSC) for its efforts to support excellence in training and education for residence service coordinators.

Read the full 2018 Annual Report to learn more about VHFA's work this past year.



By: Mia Watson on 1/10/2019

The CVOEO Fair Housing Project, through its Thriving Communities initiative, is creating an online Housing Committee Toolkit, which will include success stories, best practices, and resources for existing local groups and communities who want to learn more about housing committees. The toolkit is intended to stimulate community conversations, local leadership, and policy change to increase inclusive, fair, and affordable housing.

As part of this effort, we are contacting community leaders all over the state to find out more about local housing challenges, what is happening on the ground, and what resources and support are needed to take the next steps. The short survey is intended for municipal officials, and includes questions about the challenges to meeting local housing needs, and whether or not a town has a housing needs assessment, housing trust fund, or housing committee. Other community members are welcome to use the survey to share their thoughts about local barriers to housing affordability.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to complete this survey, or for sending it along to the appropriate person in your town or region. The deadline to complete the survey deadline is January 18, 2019.


If you have any questions, contact Jess Hyman, CVOEO Fair Housing Project Education and Outreach Coordinator, at 802-660-3456 x 110 or jhyman@cvoeo.org. For more information about the Thriving Communities initiative and the Housing Committee Toolkit, visit www.thrivingcommunitiesvt.org/toolkit

By: Mia Watson on 1/9/2019

Executive Director Maura Collins announced that Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has hired Seth Leonard of Winooski for the newly created position of Managing Director of Community Development. Leonard comes to VHFA from the USDA Office of Rural Development, where he served as Housing Program Director for Vermont and New Hampshire. Prior to that, Leonard worked at VHFA for four years as Homeownership Outreach Coordinator.

“Seth’s experience with multifamily rental housing, his familiarity with VHFA programs, and his leadership skills will be a valuable addition to the agency’s staff,” Collins remarked. “We love welcoming previous employees back ‘home’ to VHFA, and Seth’s integrity, knowledge, and style make him perfect for this role.”

As Managing Director of Community Development, Leonard will oversee the agency’s rental housing development and management activities as well as supporting the Executive Director in government and community relations and the development of new initiatives.

Until recently, Leonard also served as the mayor of the city of Winooski for four years.  During his tenure, Leonard was a strong advocate for affordable housing, and Winooski saw many reforms to encourage new development, including revising the Winooski Municipal Master Plan and zoning codes.

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.