Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Cathedral Square’s new Development, Elm Place, in Milton on Tuesday. Elm Place is Vermont’s first housing facility built to “Passive House” standards; the building has no central heating system, but is able to maintain its temperature even during the coldest winter days due to a state of the art ventilation system. The amount of heat used for the entire building is equivalent to that of a single family home.
Sanders remarked upon the importance of reducing prescription drug prices and funding services like SASH – support and services at home – that allow people to age in place while providing them with necessary primary care. The programs serves to keep seniors out of the emergency room while keeping Medicare costs down.
To find out more about Elm Place, read the Milton Independent’s coverage of Sen. Sanders’ visit.
A proposal to issue a $35 million housing bond that would be administered by the Vermont Housing Conservation Board is on the table at the State House, with proponents pushing to keep the measure from being cast aside until the next legislative session. Advocates held a press conference yesterday discussing the importance of the bond and the impact that it can have on Vermont’s housing stock.
The bond would be administered by VHCB, required $2.5 million in servicing each year. On the importance of VHCB being the administrator, John Vogel writes, “Having a competent entity administer the funds is critical because financing affordable housing can be mind boggling in its complexity, often involving ten different layers of City, State, Federal and private capital. VHCB has a great track record in navigating this financial maze and figuring out how to fill critical gaps that allow worthwhile projects to move forward.”
Read more from VPR here.
Read Vermont Biz’ overview of the plan and its impact here.
Although the House voted to end the Cold Weather Exemption program for homeless folks in an effort to balance the budget, the House has voted to allow all pregnant women and families with children to access temporary housing.
Under current conditions, there are exceptions regarding pregnant women and children as to who are considered “vulnerable” people. Right now, only pregnant women in their third trimester and families with children younger than six can qualify for housing for up to 28 days as “vulnerable” people. Families with children over the age of six need to qualify under a point-based system. The change expands the rules to include women at any stage of pregnancy and any minor children.
Read more from the Burlington Free Press here.
At the end of March, the committee decided to delay the consideration of S.100, this year’s omnibus housing bill. Included in the bill is Scott’s proposed housing bond, which would cost the state $2.5 million per year for 20 years. Just the week before, the Senate Finance Committee decided to pay off the bond through the $2 occupancy tax on Vermont hotels, motels and Airbnbs.
Tim Ashe, Senate President Pro Tempore, said the next step is to work with the committees on Appropriations, Finance and Economic Development to figure out whether to take the bond, and thus the occupancy fee, out of the bill.
Ashe said overall, Senators are in support of affordable housing, and saw the occupancy as a funding source for affordable housing. However, Ashe stated that now may not be the time for anything new, as Governor Scott has stated repeatedly that he will not support any new taxes or fees.
Ashe further noted that the government is trying to find a way to support affordable housing, without the funds coming from an existing program.
Read more here.
HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Federal Policy Forum, asserting that housing will be included in the Trump Administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The proposed $6.2 billion cut to HUD’s budget have many concerned that many housing programs would be negatively affected or even completely cut. Carson is assuring advocates that the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, that has yet to be revealed, will be a significant source of the HUD funding. Read more here.
After a $8.2 million renovation to their building on 95 North Avenue, COTS re-opened their permanent residence. The building consists of 14 new affordable apartment; a permanent home for COTS’ Daystation, the nonprofit’s daytime center for homeless adults to connect with services; and renovated COTS’ program spaces for its homelessness prevention initiative. With this new building intact, COTS will be able to serve over 2,600 people facing homelessness.
COTS will move into the building on the week of April 9, and being to offer its services on April 13. Of the 14 apartments, seven will be fully furnished and for people who are homeless, or at the risk of becoming homeless, with be offered service-enriched housing. The other seven apartments will be used as permanent affordable housing. This means, that households with incomes below 60 percent of the HUD area median income will be able to move into these apartments.
Funding for the renovation came from various sources. Housing Vermont’s Green Mountain Housing Equity VI invested $3.2 million in the project, while the Merchants Bank contributed a loan through the Affordable Housing Program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. More funding came from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Community Development through the Town of Williston, HUD’s HOME program administered by the City of Burlington, Burlington Housing Trust Fund, Vermont Gas and Burlington Electric.
Learn more here.
On Thursday, the VT House of Representatives will debate a budget which includes major cuts to a program that pays for hotel rooms for homeless folks on the coldest nights of the year. Vermont spent $344,000 on the Cold Weather Exception in 2016, though that was down dramatically from $1.8 million in 2015 because of a more mild winter.
Legislators argue that money needs to be spent where we see the best results, and so using that money to fund shelters in Rutland and Montpelier would go further in helping to identify individuals who may be in need.
The state would continue to provide temporary emergency housing to victims of domestic violence, elderly and disabled Vermonters, pregnant women in their third trimester, and families with a child under age six. Those people qualify for motel rooms under catastrophic and vulnerable housing policies, which are different from the cold weather exception.
Read more about the proposed cuts from the Burlington Free Press.
April is Fair Housing Month!
Join the Fair Housing Project on Tuesday, April 4th at the Statehouse to celebrate the importance of Fair Housing in our communities. There are several exciting events happening that day that you’ll be sure not to miss. The agenda for the day so far is as follows:
8:30 AM – The Fair Housing Project and its partners will be in the Card Room to greet people and discuss the importance of April as Fair Housing Month. We will be in the area until around 3:30 PM. Our various organizations will have information available on their respective tables. We will also be distributing peel-off-stick-on April Fair Housing Month “buttons” that we hope you will wear to display your support for Fair Housing.
9:45 AM – Gather in the House Chamber.
10:00 AM – Join us in the House Chamber for a reading of the Concurrent Resolution declaring April 2017 as Fair Housing Month in Vermont. Those of us attending to witness the reading will be asked to rise for recognition during the session. Let’s show our legislators how dedicated our communities are to Fair Housing!
Please contact Ted Wimpey, Director of CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project, with any questions.
Check out the flyer for the day here.
The Vermont Senate Finance Committee OKed an amendment to S.100, an omnibus housing bill, which puts a $2 per night tax on hotels, motels, and airbnbs. The occupancy fee was a high priority of both the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and the Shumlin Administration’s Poverty Council.
This fee has the potential to raise more than $7.2 million annually in Vermont, $2.5 million of which would be used by the Vermont Housing Conservation Board to make payments on the $35 million housing bond that Scott proposed in his budget. Remaining funds would be allocated towards cleaning up Lake Champlain.
This fee was passed despite repeated warnings from the governor stating he would veto any budget that would raise fees or taxes. Currently, House Appropriations is considering cuts in various sectors in order to balance to budget including authorizing $2.5 million in cuts from the the Agency of Human Services grant program, which distributes more than $100 million a year to 1,200 nonprofits around the state.
Read the administration’s statement here.
Read more on the Occupancy Fee here.
Read more from on the legislature’s efforts to finalize the budget here.
[This post was corrected from an earlier version.]
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development recently released a draft of its action plan and fund allocation for comment by the public. A public hearing will be held on April 7, and written comments will be accepted through May 8. Read more here.