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Shumlin Creates Anti-Poverty Council, Budget Will Include Added Funding For Low Income Programs

Posted December 31, 2013

Governor Peter Shumlin announced yesterday he will propose additional spending for anti-poverty programs in his upcoming budget to make up for some federal cuts.  The governor also announced the creation of the Council on Pathways Out of Poverty, which will advise the Governor on programs impacting low income Vermonters.  The council comes to being after meetings between the governor and a group of anti-poverty advocates and service providers which took place earlier this year.

VTDigger has more on yesterday’s announcement:

Flanked by administration officials, anti-poverty advocates and service providers, Shumlin stressed the importance of assisting the state’s most vulnerable people at a time when Congress and the federal government are cutting money that has long helped Vermonters pay rent, heat their homes and put food on the table.

“We’re at a time in our nation’s history where Congress is cutting back the resources that are so important to Vermonters who are struggling to make ends meet,” Shumlin said, adding those cuts deepen the hurt of a sluggish economy where wages remain stagnant.

He noted that 100,000 residents saw a reduction in federal food assistance recently and the state’s Section 8 affordable housing voucher program has shrunk by more than 10 percent. In addition there have been cuts in home heating fuel assistance subsidies, caused by sequestration and other budget negotiations in Washington.

Shumlin declined to give details on how these proposals, which cost a combined $2.55 million, would be paid for as part of a balanced budget when the state is facing a $70 million budget shortfall.

“The money’s coming from our budget. To tell you exactly where the money is coming from I’d have to tell you my budget, and I’m going to give you that on Jan. 15,” he told reporters.

Vermont Public Radio has some details on the Governor’s purposed budget:

  • $500,000 for the Vermont Rental Subsidy program (brings the total state funding to $1 million)
  • $300,000 for Emergency Solutions Grants to help operate emergency shelters.  This will make up for a loss of $200,000 in federal money and add another $100,000.
  • An increase of $200,000 for case management and aid to families in need of housing.
  • $800,000 for STARS child care providers and subsidies to qualified families based on updated payment calculations.
  • $650,000 for substance abuse and mental health treatment services for the Reach Up program.

WCAX has video of some of yesterday’s press conference:

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

 



Update on Homelessness Awareness Day Schedule

Posted December 30, 2013

An update on the Annual Homelessness Awareness Day and Memorial Vigil, taking place next week on Thursday, January 9, at the State House:

The day is still starting at 8 AM in the Card Room.  The Memorial Vigil will take place on the State House steps at Noon.  A new time has been set for the reading of the Resolution commemorating the day, recognizing those experiencing homelessness, and the work being done by homeless service providers and advocates.  Please assemble at 1:00 PM (not 9:30 AM) in the gallery at the back of the House Chamber for the reading of the Resolution.

Please print and distribute the updated flyer below.

MemorialPoster (2)

 



National Housing Trust Fund: A Step Toward Affordable Housing

Posted

The National Housing Trust Fund, created by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, was to provide communities with money to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that were affordable to families with extremely low income (30% of area median or less) and very low income (50% of area median or less).

The fund was to have been financed through assessments on new business by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, however those agencies went into conservatorship before providing any money.  The New York Times recently ran an editorial arguing for the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mel Watt, to require Fannie and Freddie to start paying into the trust fund:

Representative Melvin Watt, a Democrat of North Carolina, who was confirmed earlier this month as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, will need to use all of his agency’s powers to cope with a worsening affordable housing crisis that is placing poor and elderly Americans at risk of homelessness and forcing many of the nation’s 43 million renters to skimp on food and medical care to meet the rent.

One thing he can do right away is to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally backed mortgage companies that the agency oversees, to pay into the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created by Congress in 2008 but was never financed because the two companies were brought low by the mortgage crisis.

The crisis in affordable housing was underscored in an alarming study released this month by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The study found that, from 2000 to 2012, renters were caught in a relentless squeeze, with falling wages on one side and rising rents on the other. Median gross rents went up by 6 percent, while the median renter’s income declined by 13 percent.

Nearly half of all renters earn less than $30,000 a year. According to the report, about half of them now pay more than a third of their incomes on rent — up 12 percentage points from a decade ago. A quarter of renters pay more than 50 percent of their incomes in rent, which places them at clear risk of homelessness.

Mr. Watt needs to encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stimulate affordable housing production by purchasing and guaranteeing more multifamily mortgages. He must find ways to make home loans more affordable to moderate-income borrowers. And he should direct Fannie and Freddie, which have recovered from the mortgage crisis, to begin paying into the trust fund.

The fund, modeled on successful state programs, could provide grants and loans to preserve, rehabilitate and build housing, primarily for extremely low-income families that earn 30 percent or less of median income in their areas. The fund could also be used to develop healthy, mixed-income communities; a developer who receives a subsidy would set aside a proportionate number of units for low-income families who would be charged affordable rents. Given the current crisis, programs like this are needed more than ever.

Read the Times’ editorial online here or as a PDF.

See also:

Ellison: Give the National Housing Trust Fund Its Due
With Rental Demand Soaring, Poor are Feeling Squeezed
United for Homes: Campaign for the National Housing Trust Fund

 



Shining a Light on Poverty: Monthly Discussions to Take Place in 2014

Posted

In honor of 50 years of community action in Vermont, the Office of Economic Opportunity, Department for Children and Families will be hosting a series of one-hour discussions on poverty every month in 2014.

The discussion series will take place on the following dates, be sure to mark your calendar:

  • January 30, February 27, & March 27
  • April 24, May 29, & June 26
  • July 31, August 28, & September 25
  • October 30, November 20, & December 18

Further details, including time and location, will be emailed to Agency of Human Services staff and partners a few weeks before each discussion and available online at http://dcf.vermont.gov/oeo.

 



January 9: Homelessness Awareness Day and Memorial Vigil at the State House

Posted December 20, 2013

Every year in January concerned citizens and homeless service providers from across Vermont gather at the State House in Montpelier for a day to engage with their elected representatives and to renew their commitment to end homelessness in our state.

On Thursday, January 9 the Annual Homelessness Awareness Day and Memorial Vigil  will kick off early at 8:00am in the Card Room. Folks will be present there all day to share information, connect with policy makers, see the work being done around the state, and to be a part of the conversation on which strategies are working in reducing homelessness and which ones still need work.

At Noon community members, elected officials, administration representatives, and advocates will take to the State House steps for a Vigil to emphasize the urgency of the problems facing Vermonters who are homeless, to remember our friends and neighbors who have died without homes, and to bring awareness of the struggles of those still searching for safe and secure housing.

At 1:00pm [edited: new time], please assemble in the House Gallery to hear the reading of a Resolution commemorating the day and to recognize the work being done by homeless service providers and advocates.

MemorialPoster (2)

Additional information will soon be released.  VAHC is proud to be a co-sponsor of the day’s activities, along with the primary sponsor, the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness.

Print, download, and post the event flyer.

For more information, please contact Linda Ryan by email or phone at 802.373.6505.

 



Report Issued on the Viability and Disaster Resilience of Mobile Home Ownership and Parks

Posted December 19, 2013

Last week the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development issued a report with a series of recommendations to improve the disaster resilience of mobile homes and parks.  The report details many of the difficulties faced by mobile home park residents in the wake of Irene as well as ways to improve mobile home parks and protect them from future floods.  More from the news release:

Mobile homes are nearly twice as likely to be located in a flood hazard area as stick built homes and were disproportionately impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. Unfortunately, mobile home residents often lack the resources necessary to repair or replace their homes, and difficult lessons were learned about the state’s preparedness for responding to disasters affecting this housing segment.

…the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development issued a series of recommendations to improve the disaster resilience of mobile homes and parks. Its Report on the Viability and Disaster Resilience of Mobile Home Ownership and Parks also addresses longstanding challenges facing mobile home and park owners. Based on extensive research and collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders, the report suggests actions at the individual, local and statewide levels.

“With two years of disaster and recovery experience behind us, we know what makes mobile homes vulnerable and what can be done to make Vermonters who reside in them safer,” Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of the Department, said. “Simple and complex, inexpensive and costly, individually and statewide, there are many ways to improve the resilience of this important form of affordable housing.”

The Department will work with state agencies, housing groups and others to implement the recommendations…

Some of the recommendations include:

  • Giving municipal governments the authority to prepare for future disasters;
  • Providing education and outreach to Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC’s), park owners and residents on disaster preparedness planning and strategies;
  • Looking into the availability of financing for mobile homes and alternative types of park ownership, and mobile home construction to replace older, inefficient units;
  • Using a Mobile Home Park Risk Assessment Tool enabling agencies and park owners to identify and assess the vulnerabilities of a park, allowing planning and mitigation to occur or to respond to any sale or closure notices.

Read the full report here.

See also:

VPR: Study Takes Stock of Irene’s Impact on Mobile Homes
MCV: VT Recommends Actions to Make Mobile Homes & Parks Less Vulnerable

 



Vermont Housing Managers Association Offering Training on VOSHA

Posted

Many activities involved in property maintenance present hazards to those performing the maintenance activities.  On Wednesday, January 29 the Vermont Housing Managers Association (VHMA) will be offering a one-day training with Daniel Whipple on Vermont’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA).

VOSHA Program Manager Daniel Whipple’s presentation will introduce the “focus four” that is the four hazards that are responsible for 90 percent of all contrsruction related fatalities.  Those hazards include falls, struck by, caught in/between and electrical hazards.  In addition, the training event will focus on chemical hazards and the new December 2013 requirements under the Hazardous Communication Standard and Globally Harmonized System of classifying, labeling and informing workers of the existence of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

The event details:

When: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 from 9am to 3pm (registration opens at 8:30)
Where: Best Western, Blush Hill Road, Waterbury, Vermont
Registration Deadline: January 17, 2014

Registration Cost: $65 per person for VHMA/GSMA members; $165 for non-members (lunch is included in the registration cost)

If you should have any questions or need special accommodations please contact Heidi Setien at 802.828.6021 or email heidi.stetien@vt.usda.gov or Cathy Rice at 802.828.3013 or email cathyr@vsha.org.

 



CHALENG 2013 Survey Now Open to All Homeless, Formerly Homeless Veterans

Posted

The CHALENG 2013 survey is now open to all homeless and formerly homeless Veterans, VA, and community partners.

In 1994, the VA launched Project CHALENG (Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups) for Veterans, a program designed to enhance the continuum of care for homeless Veterans provided by the local VA and its surrounding community service agencies.  From the VA:

The guiding principle behind Project CHALENG is that no single agency can provide the full spectrum of services required to help homeless Veterans become productive members of society. Project CHALENG enhances coordinated services by bringing the VA together with community agencies and other federal, state, and local governments who provide services to the homeless to raise awareness of homeless Veterans’ needs and to plan to meet those needs.

This survey helps to provide feedback from Veterans and community partners on the services that are needed in the area. The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete and the feedback does help to better the coordination of services. Please take the survey today to provide the much needed feedback to better serve Veterans in our community.

The CHALENG 2013 survey can be taken 24/7 from now until January 31st, 2014.

The Veterans access to a computer for some could be challenging, possible solutions could include:

  • Libraries
  • Schools
  • Internet cafes
  • Drop in centers
  • Residence
  • Community partners
  • Computer resource labs
  • DOL One Stop Centers
  • Outreach Centers
  • Telephone/ipad

VA and community partners would most likely have more access to computers and are encouraged to help aide those Veterans they are working with in the area.

 



Seven Days Profiles Harbor Place, Recent Homeless Family

Posted December 18, 2013

Kathryn Flagg for Seven Days has written a new article on Harbor Place.  The report highlights the story of the Sweeney’s, a family who recently stayed at the new emergency housing facility purchased and opened by Champlain Housing Trust.  More from the article:

The practice of housing Vermonters in motels, when homeless shelters are full, is a controversial one: The emergency-assistance program has grown steadily more expensive in recent years; in the last fiscal year, it cost the state $4.2 million, prompting officials to tighten eligibility. Advocates for the homeless argue against drastic cuts to the program. Until the state has better safety nets in place, they say, the motels are an important last resort for people who have nowhere else to sleep.

No one is saying it’s an ideal solution. But that’s where Harbor Place — formerly the Econo Lodge in Shelburne — comes in.

“We thought, ‘There’s a better way,’” said Chris Donnelly, director of community relations at the Champlain Housing Trust. So in late October, the trust purchased the 59-room motel for $1.85 million, financing the majority of that purchase with a loan through the Vermont Community Loan Fund — the largest in VCLF’s history…

The change is more than cosmetic. Security cameras were installed earlier this month. New placards posted around the motel advertise the facility’s rules, including a ban on visitors after 8 p.m. It’s quiet, and the Sweeneys like the fact that a guard roams the property until midnight. Neighbors stop by with baked goods, and the former lobby is occasionally stocked with donated clothing and boots.

But arguably the most important change is that Harbor Place brings caseworkers directly to “guests” at the motel. The goal isn’t simply to give families and homeless individuals a warm and safe temporary room; it’s to connect them with other services and programs that can get them out of the motel and back on their feet…

In November, Harbor Place’s first month of operation, the shelter housed 128 people — including individuals and families. The State of Vermont guarantees to pay for at least 30 of the motel’s 59 rooms every night, but at an average rate of $38 a night, it’s a better deal than what the state pays at other motels around Chittenden County. The voucher limits a family’s stay to 28 days, but Harbor Place allows guests to extend that if they pay their own way and are actively working with a caseworker. Harbor Place also takes in families or individuals referred by Fletcher Allen Health Care or the HowardCenter.

Department of Children and Families Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings called the Champlain Housing Trust a “solid partner,” with whom the state is making significant strides to address the costs of homelessness.

“They’re under a lot of pressure to do things differently,” said Donnelly of the state. “But you can’t just flip the switch overnight.”

Read the full article, and learn of the Sweeney family’s experience at Harbor Place, over at Seven Days, or here in PDF.

 



East Central Vermont Households Face High Housing Expenses, Long Commutes, Scarce Rental Options

Posted

Reprinted from VHFA Housing Matters, by Leslie Black-Plumeau:

A recent study by VHFA found that thousands of residents of the East Central Vermont region face extraordinary challenges finding housing that is both affordable and located near their jobs and needed services. An estimated 11,000 households living in Orange and Windsor counties paid more than 30% of their income for their housing-related expenses (a combination of their mortgage or rent, utilities, taxes, and insurance), the study found. Of these households, an estimated 4,500 spent 50 percent or more of their income for housing, placing a considerable drain on the funds these residents have available for other basic life necessities. For those who also have lengthy commutes to work and associated transportation costs, making ends meet is even tougher.

Scarce rental options in many East Central Vermont communities compound the search for affordable housing. Both homeownership and market rate rental housing prices are in part driven higher by Windsor County’s high proportion of vacation homes which limits the stock available for year-round residents and brings wealthier households into the region to compete for units.

VHFA conducted the study for the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission on behalf of the East Central Vermont Sustainability Consortium. The study was funded by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Community Regional Planning Grant Program. The area’s housing needs will be among the many key elements considered during the comprehensive planning process currently underway in the region.

Read the full report or more about the region’s current planning process at VTDIGGER.org.

 



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