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How ‘Housing First’ Reduces Homelessness And Saves Money

Posted November 26, 2014

Today Vermont Public Radio highlighted the Housing First program and Pathways VT, which provides these services in Vermont. Below is an excerpt from their coverage, which discusses how the program helps to permanently house the chronically homeless while saving a great deal of money in the end:

“We have a long history in this country of trying to support people to get better in order to get housing,” Melton explained. “It’s a kind of staircase analogy of moving from streets into shelters, from shelters into transitional housing to treatment programs and finally into permanent housing. We’ve found over the years that in fact that model does not work, and the results and the research that has followed — it’s two decades worth of research — has shown that what ends homelessness is housing.”

Housing First skips that staircase and simply moves a person into permanent housing. Once that person is housed, the Housing First model gives them services tailored to the person’s needs, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment. “That’s the most effective bang for our dollar to support people to get out of this horrible cycle of homelessness.”

“If you’re living on the street, it’s impossible to get better and do the things that people are asking that you do. And for people who are challenged by homelessness, there’s sleep deprivation, not knowing where you’re going to be, that kind of pressure that being homeless brings onto a person is enormous,” Melton explained. Once a person is housed, they’re in a better position to work on those problems, and there’s evidence that people do the best when they are in a community-based setting, especially if they’ve been able to have some input into the kind of community they want to live in.

Melton said while Housing First is more effective than the staircase approach to housing, the reason it’s been embraced nationally, internationally and by Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans Administration and the Interagency Council on Homelessness is because it costs less.

Pathways Vermont started in Vermont as a five year grant program. Among the data is a cohort of 129 people. In the six months after those individuals started with Pathways Vermont, the amount of money spent on those people dropped by over $1 million from what was spent in the six months before they were housed.

“The prisons cost dropped from $700,000 to $200,000. The hotel costs went from $55,000 to $43,000, the $1 million for psychiatric hospitalization dropped to $1,500. So a million dollars on psychiatric hospitalization, versus $1,500 on people living in the community,” Melton emphasized. “How can we not look at those numbers and make decisions based on those numbers? We’re already spending an enormous amount of money on the same population, and we can do it better cheaper.”

Pathways Vermont uses a scattered site model for housing, working with landlords in communities all around Vermont. In five years, the program has housed 250 people, 160 of those were considered chronically homeless. Melton said they couldn’t do it with the hundreds of local landlords who are willing to take a chance by housing people without credit and rental history.

To read the entire article and listen to the audio from VPR click here.

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Register Now to Attend the New England Housing Network Annual Conference on December 12th!

Posted November 25, 2014

The New England Housing Network Annual Conference will be held on on Friday, December 12th at the Sheraton Needham in Needham, MA.  This year’s special guest speaker will be Congressman Barney Frank (Retired), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007-2011. National advocates scheduled to be present include:

Joe Belden, Deputy Executive Director, Housing Assistance Council
Barbara Burnham, Vice President for Federal Policy, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Linda Couch, Senior Vice President for Policy, 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
Diane Yentel, Vice President of Public Policy, Enterprise Community Partners

More about the conference:

What can we expect from the Administration and Congress with respect to housing policy and funding this term? How can we use the tools we have to confront problems such as chronic homelessness? Are there innovative ways for us to think about sustainability and health and housing issues? Should we be changing the way we talk about housing needs to our national and local officials and the press? These are some of the questions we will confront at the 2014 New England Housing Network conference.

Join housing advocates, developers, housing authorities, government officials, tenants, lenders, service providers, attorneys, and many others involved in the creation, management, and preservation of affordable housing from all six New England states for a one-day conference dealing with issues critical to our region. Conference participants will hear the latest information from national and local experts, and share innovative ideas on affordable housing and community development initiatives.

Our day will include plenary sessions featuring an overview of federal budget and legislative concerns, chronic homelessness, and messaging; a lunch plenary featuring Medicaid Officials from all six New England states; a choice of a specialized workshop; and the opportunity to engage with advocates across our six state region.

To download the full conference brochure click here. To register for the conference click here. Registration deadline is November 28th and a special hotel rate for conference attendees at the Sheraton Needham has been extended to December 1st.

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VPR Report on VEIC’s Commons Energy


Vermont Public Radio recently highlighted Commons Energy, a new low-profit venture from the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation that aims to offer significant energy savings for buildings that serve a public purpose, including educational institutions, health care facilities, municipal and other community buildings, and multifamily affordable housing. Below is an excerpt from their report:

There’s nothing new about “energy saving companies,” and for-profit firms have long helped hospitals, universities and other large institutions trim their energy bills. But those firms generally target seven-figure clients. And energy saving projects at small- and mid-size public-purpose buildings – like the one at Union Square – haven’t attracted much attention from the private sector.

“There’s numerous low-income multi-family housing properties throughout the state of Vermont that need assistance with making energy-related upgrades that they haven’t been able to make for one reason or another,” Brown says. “So we started Commons Energy to provide the technical support, construction support, provide financial support when needed, and to provide a guarantee of performance that will allow facilities like this one to make improvements.”

The $270,000 pellet boiler system will replace the two oil-fed units that currently provide heat and hot water to residents here. Union Square will trade the 17,000 gallons of fuel it uses now every year for 143 tons of pellets. And even after paying off debt service to Commons Energy, which covers upfront capital and technical support, Union Square will still net about $10,000 in savings annually.

Brown says that’s money Union Square can then invest in its affordable-housing mission. And if Commons Energy is wrong on its efficiency projections, it will actually cut a check to Union Square for the difference.

Eric Schmitt is the director of asset management for Housing Vermont, which, along with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, owns Union Square. Schmitt says that every dollar saved on energy costs “is one we can use to maintain the quality and affordability of this housing.”

To read the entire piece from VPR and listen to the audio report, click here.



Farrington’s Mobile Park to Be Sold


Last week, news broke of the of the uncertain future of Burlington’s Farrington Mobile Home Park. Days later, it was confirmed that the mobile home park has been placed for sale by the current owners. While residents are allowed by law to form a cooperative or work with a non-profit to purchase the property, there is a limited time frame to do so for the $5 million asking price. Below is a report from Seven Days on the sale and what lies ahead:

Burlington’s only mobile home park, which offers one of the most affordable places to live in a city where housing costs are steep, is on the market. Residents — most of whom own their homes but lease the land on the 11-acre park — received notice by mail on Thursday afternoon that it’s for sale.

Farrington’s Mobile Park, located in the New North End across from the Ethan Allen shopping plaza, has 120 lots, 117 of which are currently occupied, according to the notice. The rent is roughly $300 a month.

State law gives residents the chance to form a cooperative or to work with a nonprofit to purchase the property themselves. If a majority of residents choose to pursue this option, they would have 45 days to notify the owner of their plans. The law requires the owner to then give them an additional 120 days and to negotiate with them in good faith.

The asking price for the park is $5 million.

The park has been owned by the Farrington family since it was founded in 1923. Rumors about a potential sale have been circulating since the park’s owner, Sandra Farrington, passed away in August. Her four children inherited the property. Reached Thursday, her son, Robert Farrington, said that his mother had stipulated in her will that the property be liquidated, leaving them no choice but to sell. But he also pointed to the challenges of running the park.

Many residents — some of whom have lived there for decades — are unnerved at the prospect of moving, which they say would cause financial hardships for many. They point to the price of transporting their homes — many of which aren’t very mobile — and, more significantly, a lack of vacancies in other parks.

George LeDuc, who’s lived in Farrington’s for 21 years, and Bob Dougherty, who’s been there for 27, discussed the announcement outside their homes Thursday. Even before the news of the sale, LeDuc had been involved in efforts to organize the residents into a tenants’ association. Both felt strongly that the property should remain a mobile home park, but coming up with $5 million would be beyond their means, they said. “We’ve got to get moving on whatever we’re going to do,” Dougherty said.

Robert Farrington, who called the decision to sell “heartbreaking” said he’s fully supportive of residents purchasing the property. “We’d like to see the tenants get it … There’s a lot of good people in here.” Farrington, who lives in the park himself but plans to move, added, “We need low-income housing in Burlington and I don’t think it gets much cheaper than here.”

Burlington city officials, state officials and staff at local housing organizations met last week to discuss the possibility of a sale. Brian Pine, who works in Burlington’s Community Economic Development Office, said the park is “a critical housing resource for low-income people in Burlington” and “we want to make sure it remains available for the folks who call it home.”

For a link to the full article from Seven Days click here. To read and view previous coverage from WCAX click here.


Why Aren’t Vermont Millennials Buying Homes?

Posted November 24, 2014

At last week’s Vermont Statewide Housing Conference John Pelletier of Champlain College and Anthony Poore of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston presented at a workshop titled “Homeownership’s Lost Generation.” Vermont Public Radio reported on what they had to say about why fewer of Vermont’s millennials are buying homes:

Vermonters in the millennial generation are often seen as a success story in a state that has struggled to attract and retain young people. But cultural and economic trends mean millennials in the state are still falling short on the housing market.

It’d be hard to name any one reason why young people aren’t buying homes in Vermont. Some are leaving the state, some are still too young to be expected to buy a home; others still live with their parents.

John Pelletier is the director of the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy. He said one of the big factors is college debt.

“If you’re a college grad with student loan debt in those age categories of 29 and under, less of you own a home than if you didn’t go to college, ” he said.

And Pelletier said two-thirds of students who graduate from college in Vermont end up in debt.

“Of that two-thirds that that had student loan debt, their average debt was approximately $29,000 or just a little bit under that,” he said.

Speaking at the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference in Burlington, Pelletier and Anthony Poore of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said it’s not just the numbers that are keeping young people from buying houses.

Poore said there were also some cultural differences between millennials and their parents.

“You know, these folks watched their parents lose their homes,” he said. “These people saw their parents have to try to figure out everything they could to stay in their homes, so they’re beginning to ask themselves, really, is homeownership really all that?”

Despite what Pelletier called the generation’s “failure to launch,” the stats show millennials still plan on owning a home at some point.

“Everybody wants a home,” he said. “So this generation has failed to launch so far, but I think fundamentally it’s a reasonable expectation that they’re going to want a home.”

The results of a recent survey from NeighborWorks America on homeownership had similar findings, with 49% of respondents who have student loan debt saying it was an obstacle when it comes to purchasing a home.


For the full article from VPR, including audio, click here. For full results of the NeighborWorks survey click here.


VT’s Greenest Building Awards Competition Now Accepting Applications


Applications are now being accepted for the 2014 VT’s Greenest Building Awards Competition. Hosted by the Vermont Green Building Network (VGBN), this statewide competition recognizes exemplary residential and commercial buildings that meet the highest standard of demonstrated energy performance.

The Awards:

  • Vermont’s Greenest Building: The lowest demonstrated energy use intensity in Vermont! (both non-residential and residential)
  • Vermont’s Greener Building: Projects demonstrating energy use intensity below 30 kbtu/sf/yr for non-residential and 15 kbtu/sf/yr for residential
  • Going Green: Projects with energy use intensity’s below 50 kbtu/sf/yr for non-residential and 25 kbtu/sf/yr for residential
  • People’s Choice Award: Selected by attendees of the Annual Vermont’s Greenest Building Awards Gala

Award Categories:

  • RESIDENTIAL: Projects must be located in Vermont, less than 5,000 sf and have at least one year of utility usage data @ 25 kbtu/sf/yr or less.
  • NON-RESIDENTIAL/COMMERCIAL: Project must be located in Vermont and have at least one year of utility usage data @ 50 kbtu/sf/yr or less. Mixed-used or residential buildings with four or more distinct dwelling units and larger than 5,000 square feet can be submitted under the commercial requirements.

Join VGBN! Submissions must be from a current VGBN member involved in the design, construction, or ownership/operation of the project.

Application materials for the 2014 Vermont’s Greenest Building Awards Competition are now available. Please click here to learn more about the 2014 awards competition.

Also, save the date! The awards reception will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at Main Street Landing in Burlington, VT.

Click here for application materials and to learn more about the competition. Entrants must submit all application materials by 5:00pm EST on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.


Wright House Featured in Affordable Housing Finance Magazine


Cathedral Square’s Wright House, a new senior housing development in Shelburne, was recently featured in the November/December issue of Affordable Housing Finance Magazine. Read what they had to say about this unique development that helps seniors age in place below:

Meeting the Need
A new seniors housing development in Shelburne, Vt., is providing residents with a healthy environment and a wealth of social services to help them age in place. Cathedral Square Corp.’s Wright House, which opened in July, features 36 one-bedroom units for low-income seniors. All of the units receive U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) subsidies.

Aging in Place
Residents have access to the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program, which is part of Vermont’s statewide health-care reform initiative. The coordinated program helps residents access health care while living independently and has significantly saved Medicare dollars. A nurse is on site 12 hours a week, and two SASH coordinators help connect residents with services.

Rich Amenities
Amenities for the energy-efficient Wright House include a community room, a lounge, garden beds, a salon, and a fitness room. The property also features a walking path with a pergola and a sensory garden with plants for taste, smell, and touch. “We’re encouraging aging in place, and we want to touch every sense for all,” says Katie Forleo, project manager for the nonprofit developer.

Community Building
Wright House is part of a new, multigenerational smart-growth community in Shelburne. It’s next to Harrington Village, an affordable housing project developed by nonprofits Housing Vermont and Champlain Housing Trust. Four for-sale homes are under construction, as well, through a partnership between Champlain Housing Trust and Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity.

Crucial Funding
The $9.3 million project was financed primarily with low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment. USDA-RD provided permanent financing, with additional funds from the HOME program, the Vermont HFA, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the Vermont Community Development Program, Efficiency Vermont, and Vermont Gas.

To view the entire article online click here.


Burlington Mobile Home Park Residents Worry About Future

Posted November 17, 2014

Residents of Burlington’s Farrington Mobile Home Park remain uncertain about the future due to the death of its owner last month. Below is an article and video from WCAX discussing the dilemma and what is being done in hopes that the park can remain open:

There’s no place like home, and George Leduc has lived in Farrington’s Mobile Home Park for 21 years. He says the owner of the park died last month, and with her passing, so did his certainty of having a roof over his head.

“I really have no option to go anywhere else at this point,” Leduc said. “I can’t afford a home.”

He’s worried about the land being sold out from underneath him. The deceased owner’s children are now running the mobile home park and told city officials they might be looking to sell the property.

“Her adult children have given some indication that at some point in the future a sale will happen,” said Brian Pine of Burlington Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.

Leduc hopes whoever buys the land keeps it a mobile home park so he can keep his home.

“I’m on fixed income, Social Security and retirement. Here, I’m comfortable,” Leduc said.

More than 100 mobile homes at Farrington’s Mobile Home Park are where retirees, low income individuals, and entire families live.

Park owner Robert Farrington told WCAX News the park is not currently for sale, but he’s exploring his options. He declined to go on camera, saying he’s still mourning the loss of his mother.

Leduc owns his home and pays a monthly fee for his lot.

“I mean my trailer as it sits here has value,” Leduc said. “But if the park were to be closed, the trailer would be basically valueless.”

The city of Burlington is working with local housing authorities to keep Farrington’s a mobile home park in the future, possibly having one of the nonprofits buy it.

“The idea is to preserve mobile home parks as a source of affordable housing and that’s a priority for the city, as well,” Pine said.

Pine says by state law the land cannot be bought, sold and turned into something like a mall.

“The property is zoned residential medium density,” Pine explained, “which means you cannot use the property for anything other than residential purposes.”

But that still means the park’s owners could sell the land to be developed into pricier housing. And that’s what worries Leduc. He says he’s going to do what he can to keep the park open.

“Decide to form a co-op or if they want to get a tenants association going, any kind of involvement. I’d like to be proactive,” Leduc said.

According to the city, 15 percent of Vermonters live in mobile homes. According to state law, mobile park owners need to give residents 18 months’ notice before closing the park. Again, affordable housing advocates say they’re working to make sure these residents have a home.

To view the entire article online click here.


Job Opportunity: Home Share Now Seeking Applicants for Two Positions


Home Share Now is currently seeking applicants for two positions, an Americorps member to work as a Program & Outreach Assistant and and a part-time Program Support Provider. Below are brief descriptions of each position. To read the full descriptions and find out how to apply click here. Both have a deadline to submit materials by November 28, 2014.




Job Opportunity: VHCB Seeking a Senior Housing Analyst/Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator

Posted November 14, 2014

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) is seeking a well organized, self-motivated individual to join their housing staff as a Senior Housing Analyst/Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator. Responsibilities include financial underwriting and analysis of grant applications for affordable housing developments, organizing trainings and providing technical assistance to grantees, project and organizational monitoring, working on special research projects, responding to requests for information and collecting and coordinating housing data with other housing agencies.

Requirements: Attention to detail, interest in the non-profit housing delivery system, and the ability to work as part of a team, as well as strong communication skills and a commitment to the mission of VHCB.

Qualifications: Prior experience and training in housing development, financial analysis of housing projects and multi-family housing underwriting. Experience working with non-profit organizations, municipalities, housing development groups, and state agencies is important. Background in any or all of the following is desirable: architecture, construction, service supported housing, training and technical assistance, working with federal funds. The position requires some in-state travel so a valid driver’s license is also desirable.

This is a full-time position with comprehensive benefits. Please reply by December 10 with letter of interest, résumé and references to: Laurie Graves, VHCB, 58 E. State Street, Montpelier, Vt. 05602. See the job description at:



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