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Deadline Extended to Register for New England Housing Network Annual Conference

Posted November 27, 2013

If you haven’t already registered to become part of the Vermont delegation for the New England Housing Network Annual Conference you still have the opportunity to register.  The deadline has been extended to next Monday, December 2.

The conference itself will take place at the Shearton Hotel in Framingham, Massachusetts on Friday, December 6 from 8:30am to 3:30pm.  Here is a list of just some of the national housing leaders taking part in the conference:

  • Barbara Fields, Regional Administrator, Region 1 – New England, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Joe Belden, Deputy Executive Director, Housing Assistance Council
  • Barbara Burnham, Vice President for Federal Policy, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Sheila Crowley, President, National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • Chris Estes, President and CEO, National Housing Conference
  • Barbara Sard, Vice President for Housing Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Andrew Jakabovics, Senior Director, Policy Development and Research, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
  • Debbie Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs
  •  Housing Finance Agency Executive Directors from all 6 New England states

Workshops will also be offered on the following topics:

  • Strategies to End Homelessness
  • Section 8 Voucher Solutions
  • Green and Healthy Housing Initiatives
  • Creating an Affordable Housing Message
  • RAD and Public Housing
  • Foreclosures and Housing Counseling
  • Implication of Tax Policies and Financial Reform on Affordable Housing
  • Rural Development
  • Zoning and Land Use: The Impact of the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision
  • Social Innovation Bonds

Check out the full agenda of the conference.  Register today to be part of the Vermont delegation!

 



HUD: Homelessness on the Rise in Vermont

Posted

According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Vermont has seen an increase in homelessness from 2012 to 2013. The HUD study showed nationally a decline in the total numbers of those homeless.  The HUD study uses data from a count conducted on a single night, known as the Point-in-Time.  This report is from data collected last January. Vermont Public Radio has more:

While the number of homeless people in Vermont went up from 1,160 to 1,454, the number of “unsheltered” homeless Vermonters (those who aren’t in emergency shelters or transitional housing) went down from 223 to 184.

With decreased federal assistance – Department of Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacavone said Vermont lost 774 Section 8 vouchers – state and local services have to do more to keep up.

One of those services is the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, which opened additional space this year. Director Elizabeth Ready says the new transitional housing facility is already occupied.

“We’re also seeing people staying for longer periods,” Ready said. “An average of 60 days, people are staying at the shelter, and we used to see people staying like 21 days.”

The federal report comes after Ready and other community representatives gave Gov. Peter Shumlin a set of recommendations for how the state can help bring down the number of homeless Vermonters.

Listen and read the full VPR report here.

 



Job Opportunity: Director of Vermont Early Childhood Alliance

Posted

The Vermont Early Childhood Alliance is looking for a new director and is currently seeking applications.  The Vermont Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide, independent, advocacy coalition of parents, individual community members, organizations, and strategic state partners who are committed to improving public policies that impact young children between the ages of birth and eight in the areas of health, safety, food and economic security and early care and education.

The role of the director is to provide the coalition with the necessary support and leadership to leverage its membership to effectively, efficiently and strategically advocate as a unified voice on behalf Vermontʼs young children and their families.

Read the full job description, responsibilities, and desired qualifications here.  The closing date for applications is January 1, 2014.

The Vermont Early Childhood Alliance is also seeking nominations for the 2014 Alliance Steering Committee.  Find out how to nominate someone here.

 



Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: Hunger Pains

Posted November 21, 2013

This week is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.  The other day Rita Markley, Executive Director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, and Marissa Parisi, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont penned an article on VTDigger highlighting some of the challenges facing Vermonters living in poverty:

Just last month, the U.S. Department of Education reported that the number of homeless students in public schools reached the highest number on record at 1.1 million children. A week later, the U.S. Census Bureau released data showing that real median household income was 8.3 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the recession. Meanwhile, the cost of housing, gas and utilities continues to rise beyond the reach of flat and falling incomes. Not surprisingly, nearly one in four children now live in poverty. And 47 million Americans need SNAP (known as 3SquaresVT or Food Stamps)…

Vermont is among the 10 states with the highest increase in homeless students attending K-12 public schools (31 percent). The Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) just completed its annual survey for Chittenden County which showed a 19 percent increase since last year. That means 140 children getting ready for school this morning from emergency shelters, overflow motels or doubled up and sleeping in places that are frequently unsafe.

Many of these homeless families rely on 3SquaresVT and free school meals to ensure children get proper nutrition. Meals provided by these nutrition programs are a lifeline for many Vermonters who have struggled with job loss, erosion of wages, and home foreclosures. One in six Vermont households receives 3SquaresVT benefits, the majority of whom are families with children. Hunger Free Vermont frequently hears from school staff who see ravenous children on Monday morning who did not eat over the weekend. 3SquaresVT makes a difference in the lives of thousands of Vermonters every day, but in many cases, the benefits are too low to allow them to purchase nutritious food on a consistent basis. These families also suffered a recent reduction in 3SquaresVT benefits due to a cut in recovery act funds lessening a family of four’s benefits by $36 or more.

When families are strained to the breaking point by ever increasing rents, when they can’t afford basic necessities like daily meals it impacts everyone in our community. Homeless and hungry children are sick more often, have more behavioral challenges, and struggle more in school. Vermonters have a long and proud history of coming together to support one another in hard times. With hunger at epidemic levels and a significant rise in homeless children in our state it is our responsibility as citizens to insist that our state and federal government take care of our country’s most precious resource, our youth.

Read the full article over at VTDigger.org or in PDF format.

 



Vermont Law Help Provides Legal, Health Care Resources for Vermonters

Posted

Recently Vermont Legal Aid and Law Line of Vermont launched a redesigned, easy-to-use website, Vermont Law Help, that provides up-to-date guidance on health care access, health insurance issues, and other civil legal issues.  Vermont Legal Aid has more on the new website:

One of the goals of Vermont Law Help is to inform and empower Vermonters to help themselves, find resources they can use, and know where legal services are available. Guided interviews show visitors how to complete common court documents, and form letters help them address specific problems.

Vermont Law Help has resources for Vermonters with family problems involving separation, divorce and abuse; housing issues, including landlord and tenant problems, foreclosure, and discrimination; health care questions and issues related to health care reform, insurance, access to services, denials and appeals, billing, and complaints; money and debt problems including bankruptcy, credit and credit reports, public benefits, repossession, and taxes; and more, including information specifically for seniors and people with disabilities.

Vermont Law Help has a powerful search function and simple navigation to help users find relevant information fast. Google Translate buttons quickly translate the website into seven languages that are prevalent in Vermont, and the text size can be easily adjusted by Vermonters with vision challenges. The new design offers a vastly improved reading and navigation experience for smart phone users.

Visit Vermont Law Help at vtlawhelp.org.

 



December 17: Summit on the Future of Vermont’s Working Landscape

Posted

The Vermont Council on Rural Development is organizing the second Summit on the Future of Vermont’s Working Landscape.  The event will take place on December 17 from 9am-4:30pm at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph.

The Summit will bring farmers, forest products leaders, value-adding entrepreneurs, investors, policy leaders, community residents, and all who care about the future of Vermont’s Working Lands together to consider progress that has been made, assess the work ahead, and advance the next steps needed for public policy.

For the schedule of the day and list of panelists and speakers, and to register online click here.

 



Champlain Housing Trust Receving $100,000 Housing for Everyone Grant from TD Charitable Foundation

Posted November 19, 2013

The folks over at Champlain Housing Trust announced some more exciting news last week.  CHT has been awarded a $100,00 grant from TD Charitable Foundation.  One of just 25 grants made from the Housing for Everyone competition, and the only one recognized in Vermont, CHT will be using the investment towards a housing and community development effort in Burlington’s Old North End.  CHT has additional details:

The grant is funding CHT’s work with Housing Vermont to redevelop an urban brownfield with four existing structures in Burlington’s Old North End into the Bright Street Housing Cooperative – 42 newly constructed homes in a resident-controlled housing development. Developing new, affordable housing in Chittenden County is critical with a 1% vacancy rate and rents that have increased by nearly 50% since 2007.

“We are excited to support the transformation of a full block which needs more affordable housing and is in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Vermont,” said Phil Daniels, Vermont President of TD Bank. “The Champlain Housing Trust has a long and successful history contributing to the vibrancy of the Old North End, and we are happy to be able to support their next development there.”

…Four buildings will be constructed on the site; one large building with 35 apartments, and three other buildings with a total seven apartments scattered amongst them will form the streetscape. The larger building will be developed in the middle of the block. For a visual of the site plan, visit http://bit.ly/brightstreet. The plan envisions several eco-features, such as community garden space in raised beds, the possibility of solar panels on the roof stormwater collection for watering gardens and clotheslines.

“The redevelopment of this area of Bright Street is an ambitious project,” said Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont, a partner in the development. “The grant from the TD Charitable Foundation will enable us to create housing that will benefit the neighborhood for years to come.”

The development will be under construction in late summer of fall of 2014, beginning with the demolition of buildings along Bright Street. Occupancy in the new co-op is expected to be in late summer 2015.

Take a look at the proposed site plan of the Bright Street Redevelopment:

BSC_Site_SketchPlan1

 



Film Screening of American Winter Presented by RuralEdge on Thursday

Posted

At 7:00 PM on Thursday, November 21 at the Catamount Arts Center in St. Johnsbury, RuralEdge will be hosting a screening of the acclaimed documentary film, American Winter.

The film by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz follows the intimate personal stories of eight families facing economic crisis in our country’s worst downturn since the great depression.  Join the discussion following with guest speaker, Merten Bangemann-Johnson, CEO of RuralEdge. Proceeds go to support the housing and community development work of RuralEdge in the Northeast Kingdom.

Check out the trailer of the film:

 

 



New Report Shows Faces of Austerity

Posted November 18, 2013

Even before the Budget Control Act of 2011 was adopted and sequestration took effect, programs that rely on discretionary federal funding had been cut sharply and millions of Americans have been hurt in the process.  A new report from NDD UnitedFaces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Securetells the stories of those who have been impacted most by Washington’s austerity measures.

The report highlights austerity’s impact concerning housing starting on page 25:

For fiscal year 2013, proposed HUD funding represents less than 1 percent of all federal spending and only 5 percent of discretionary spending.  This small investment in HUD generates cost savings in other government funded activities and makes them more effective, including health care, law enforcement, education and employment.

Prior to sequestration, HUD estimated that hundreds of thousands of households would be negatively affected and that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost.  Currently, public housing agencies are forced to serve fewer families with vouchers and may have to increase tenants’ rents. Pubic and non-profit agencies have eliminated staff. Private investment leveraged by community development programs is at risk.

These 2013 cuts will have serious repercussions for years to come if they are not reversed quickly. Fewer housing vouchers used in 2013 may result in permanent loss of units; deferral of public housing repairs may result in shuttering…

USDA estimated that, due to sequestration, 15,000 low-income tenants could lose housing assistance.  In July 2013, USDA notified 900 property owners that it would not be able to pay rental assistance contracts until October 2013 and that property owners should manage this funding gap. While USDA is attempting to convince owners to continue contracts, it is not clear whether thousands of units will be lost.

Read the full report here.

See Also: Sequestration Could Cut Housing Assistance for 185,000 People Next Year

 



ICYMI: Legislative Preview on Wednesday

Posted

On Wednesday the General Assembly will hold a day long preview of the upcoming legislative session.  VTDigger has more:

The legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 7, but lawmakers have been streaming into the Vermont Statehouse over the last few weeks in anticipation of the second half of the biennium. At the behest of House Speaker Shap Smith, every committee will meet before the new year and on Nov. 20, the General Assembly will hold a daylong legislative briefing for a preview of the session.

The purpose of the preseason quarterbacking, Smith says, is to better coordinate the priorities of the 15 committees in the House with his own agenda for the session…

Budget-writers face a $55 million to $70 million gap again, and this time there aren’t enough one-time monies to paper over the difference. In addition, the $12 million rainy day fund, which has been carried over for future spending in prior years, will be consumed by higher-than-expected costs for human services programs when the state balances its books for the current year as part of the mid-year correction, also known as budget adjustment.

The trend line from the Joint Fiscal Office, the Legislature’s nonpartisan research arm, shows a gap of $50 million-plus for the next five years. In addition, federal supports for programs, including the low-income heating assistance program and food stamps, are diminishing. Smith says the sequestration cuts will go into effect in January, and the state expects to see more reductions in federal spending on human services programs…

Smith says the federal government is “abandoning its role in helping out people in need,” but the state can’t afford to “backfill” funding for human services programs. The same assertion has been oft-repeated by Shumlin administration officials, including Jim Reardon, the commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, and Jeb Spaulding, the secretary of the Agency of Administration.

“We have done it for LIHEAP, and it’s putting pressure on our budget, and I don’t think we have the capacity to take on what the federal government originally had as an obligation,” Smith said.

 

Read the full VTDigger report online or in PDF format.

 



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