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Rural America’s Silent Housing Crisis

Posted January 30, 2015

This week The Atlantic did a feature on the rural housing crisis, bringing attention to the fact that safe and affordable housing is not just an urban problem.  Below is an excerpt from the article, which discusses the many ways this affects Americans and what is being to help in places across the country, including Vermont:

Conversations about affordable housing are often dominated with the question of how to get lower-income residents in expensive cities—like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco (and their surrounding areas)—safe, affordable places to live. That makes sense: Often urban hubs are a good bet for jobs and economic vitality, but they’re also prohibitively expensive for many—creating well-known housing problems. But cities aren’t the only places that are lacking when it comes to adequate housing at affordable prices. In rural America, it’s both prices and the terrible condition of existing homes that are problematic.

Few people think about rural communities—not only when it comes to housing issues, but at all. It’s mostly a numbers game. According to data from the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), in 2012 only about 21 percent of Americans lived in rural areas, which means that not many people outside those areas—or about 80 percent of Americans—probably feel much association with rural issues. And that can make it difficult to shed light on the problems that happen there. Making the case to divert funds and attention to parts of the country that house a mere 20 percent of the total population can be an uphill battle, especially in difficult economic times.

It can be hard to understand how finding affordable housing could be an issue in areas where housing is substantially cheaper than it would be in the nearest city or suburb. But the fact of the matter is, despite lower costs of living, income for many in rural areas is also significantly lower thanks to limited economic opportunities and struggling industries, like coal.

“When we are looking at areas that are most challenged economically we’re also finding some of the most challenging housing conditions,” says David Dangler, the director of Rural Initiatives at NeighborWorks America, an organization that advocates for affordable housing and acts as a network for nonprofit housing groups. Poverty is high in rural areas, with about 17.2 percent of rural residents living below the poverty line in 2012 versus 14.9 percent nationwide, according to 2012 data from the HAC. “Much of the affordable-housing stock in rural housing areas is old and in need of repair. Many of the people who live there don’t have the resources that they need in order to keep the houses in good repair,” says Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

To read the entire article, click here.


Save the Date: 2015 NLIHC Housing Legislative Forum and Leadership Reception, March 1-3


Register now for the 2015 National Low Income Housing Coalition Legislative Forum and Leadership Reception, which will be held on March 1st – 3rd at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Join the National Low Income Housing Coalition and other affordable housing advocates from around the country as we engage with renowned thought and policy leaders to Educate, Advocate, Activate – NOW!

The 2015 NLIHC Housing Legislative Forum will be packed with dynamic, powerhouse presenters, speakers, and panelists — some of the best and brightest minds in the affordable housing sector.

To EDUCATE – Learn from the nation’s leading housing researchers on the link between housing and the human condition: Stephanie Ettinger De Cuba (Children’s HealthWatch), Matthew Desmond (Harvard University), and Ingrid Gould Ellen (Furman Center, NYU/Wagner School).

To ADVOCATE – Hear from our national partners on housing finance reform, the federal budget, tax reform, and regulatory changes needed in federal housing and homeless programs: Mark Calabria (Cato Institute), Nan Roman (National Alliance to End Homelessness), Barbara Sard (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), Ali Solis (Enterprise Community Partners), and Joe Ventrone (National Association of Realtors).

To ACTIVATE – Discuss strategies with state housing coalition and resident leaders from around the country led by NLIHC Policy Committee Co-Chairs: Daisy Franklin, Public Housing Resident Network (CT), and Rachael Myers, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WA).

Other highlights of the Forum include keynote speakers The Honorable Julián Castro, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation

We will be honoring Dr. William Apgar with the Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award and OMB Director and Former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan with the Edward W. Brooke Housing Leadership Award at our Housing Leadership Reception the evening of March 3.

For more information and details on how to register, click here. Early-bird registration has been extended to February 6.



Leahy, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Combat Youth Homelessness And Trafficking

Posted January 29, 2015

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Tuesday reintroduced bipartisan legislation to curb youth homelessness, which affects 1.6 million teens throughout the country who are among the most likely to become victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) joined as original bill cosponsors.

Leahy noted that the winter snowstorms in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions currently threatening the safety of thousands of Americans spotlight the importance of passing this bipartisan bill to ensure that homeless children are not left to face such challenges alone.

Leahy said: “Homelessness is on the rise for youths and young adults. Too many young people in Vermont and around the country find themselves without safe places to sleep at night. These programs, offering outreach and early intervention for runaway and homeless teens, are the last line of defense for teens in crisis. Youth homelessness also can be a pipeline to chronic homelessness, victimization, sexual exploitation and trafficking in urban and rural communities. It’s our job in Congress to do what we can to counter this tragic reality, this scandal in the shadows. I am proud to say that last year, 95 percent of teens receiving services from the Vermont Coalition for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs were able to exit to safe living situations.”

Thirty-nine percent of the homeless population is under the age of 18, and the average age at which a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years old. A 2013 study by the Convenant House offers startling details about the connection between youth homelessness and human trafficking. The Leahy-Collins Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act reauthorizes programs that help youth obtain housing, education and job training. The bill includes training for service providers to identify victims of trafficking, and it includes a new provision that prohibits grantees from denying services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Leahy and Collins introduced similar legislation last year, which earned bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee but stalled in the Senate. Leahy has long been a champion of youth services provided by the original Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act and fought for its reauthorization in 1998 and again in 2003. He has also worked for years to counter the tragedy of human trafficking, most recently by including a reauthorization of the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act as part of his Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013, and by supporting increased appropriations for trafficking victims under last year’s Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

Collins said: “As Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, one of my goals is to address chronic homelessness. We must make sure our nation’s homeless youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other youth. The programs reauthorized by this bill are critical in helping homeless youth stay off the street and find stable, sustainable housing.”

The bill is supported by the National Network for Youth, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress, and the Human Rights Campaign, among many others.

A copy of the bill is available online.

At-A-Glance Facts About Youth Homelessness In Vermont:
(Data sources include the AHS Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Vermont Annual Report – State Fiscal Year 2014)

  • The most recent one-day Point-In-Time Count of homeless Americans (January 2014) indicates that on any given night, about 1556 Vermonters are without housing.  This represents a 9.27 percent (or 144 person) increase over the previous year.  371 of those (24 percent) of those Vermonters were children under the age of 18.
  • Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, Vermont’s HUD-funded emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, veterans’ shelters and youth shelters reported an increase both in the number of children and the length of stay for children under the age of 18.
  • Vermont’s effort to end family homelessness by 2020 is supported nationally by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.


WCAX Features the SASH Program

Posted January 28, 2015

WCAX recently featured the SASH program as part of its coverage. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Nancy Baker and Rebecca Sleeman live at Cathedral Square in South Burlington. Sleeman has lung problems, but she’s able to breathe a sigh of relief thanks to a program called SASH.

“Feeling of security, maybe we can stay in our homes longer and still be watched and have a place to live,” Sleeman said.

SASH stands for Support and Services at Home. It’s a program aimed to reduce costs Medicare spends on seniors. Participants say SASH helps coordinate doctor visits to their homes and they have health services available to them at all times.

“We have two nurses, two wellness nurses, who are great. They’ll come to see you at your home or they’re downstairs in the office,” Baker said.

The SASH program is one of a kind and it’s only in Vermont. It started in 2009 to provide seniors and disabled people at Cathedral Square with reliable care at home and prevent expensive trips to the hospital. But it has expanded. And the program began getting federal funding in 2011.

“We’ve gone from one SASH program in 2009 to 52 different SASH panels across the state. So, we now have roughly 4,200 people in the state of Vermont participating in SASH,” said Molly Dugan, the director of SASH.

In addition to increasing access to health care, the SASH program aims to decrease health care costs across the state. SASH is part of the Blueprint for Health Reform, Vermont’s plan for sustainable health care reform.

To read the entire article click here. You can also view the video coverage using there or in the embedded video below.


Proposed FY 2016 HUD Budget Stakeholder Briefing Invitation



Please join Secretary Julián Castro at a stakeholder briefing on
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Proposed FY 2016 Budget
Monday, February 2, 2015
4:00 – 5:00 pm EST (please adjust for your local time)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Brooke-Mondale Auditorium
451 7th St SW
Washington, DC 20410
To attend in person, please RSVP HERE before 12:00pm EST, Monday, February 2, 2015.
*For security purposes, RSVPs must be received prior to the deadline
For those unable to attend, please view the briefing via webcast HERE.
*Note the webcast link will not be active until minutes prior to the start of the event.
This briefing is for stakeholders and not for press purposes.
For additional information, contact Yvonne Hsu ( or 202-402-2316)


Save the Date: CHT Public Forum and Advocacy Workshop, February 3rd

Posted January 27, 2015

In preparation for the VHCC Legislative Day on February 12th, Champlain Housing Trust will be hosting a public forum and advocacy workshop, “The Housing Gap and Policy Answers”. This event will take place at Champlain Housing Trust (88 King Street, Burlington) on February 3rd from 5:30pm to 7:45pm. A light supper and drinks will also be provided. In addition CHT will be providing rides to the Legislative Day event on the 12th from Burlington that leave at 7:00am and return by 3:00pm.

To RSVP for the event or get additional information contact Julia Curry by phone at 861-7378 or by email at



Advocates Are Still Pushing for St. Johnsbury Homeless Shelter


The article below is from the Albany Times Union and was originally reported in the Caledonian Record.

Homeless advocates in St. Johnsbury say they remain committed to opening a winter homeless shelter in St. Johnsbury despite the town’s rejection of the idea.

After a proposal to put a shelter on Lincoln Street was rejected by the town, supporters recently suggested installing the shelter in an Elm Street building owned by Lyndonville-based Rural Edge, which once served as a youth shelter.

“It’s still cold outside so people need warmth,” said Joe Patrissi, of the Newport-based Northeast Kingdom Community Action. “We’re looking at it because Rural Edge said they’d donate its use for the winter. We have to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”

Patrissi said his organization has received a $20,000 grant to hire an employee to train and coordinate volunteers to staff the warming shelter. The proposal will soon be presented to the St. Johnsbury Development Review Board, he said. The concept must also be approved by the select board.

Patrissi told the Caledonian Record that the group is asking neighbors what they think about the idea.

Constance Sandahl, of Northeast Kingdom Youth Services in St. Johnsbury, which operated the former Elm Street youth shelter, said the property has enough room for 10 people.


HUD FY 2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition – Funding Announcement

Posted January 26, 2015

Today HUD announced the grants awarded through the FY 2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition. To view the full grant listing for Vermont click here.

Below is the announcement from HUD. To view the original announcement email online click here.

FY 2014 Continuum of Care Program Competition – Funding Announcement

Earlier today, Secretary Castro announced $1.8 billion in grants to support nearly 8,400 local homeless housing and service programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Continuum of Care (CoC) grants awarded today support the Administration’s efforts to end homelessness by providing critically needed housing and support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness across the country. View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding.

In addition to renewing effective projects already in operation and projects created through local strategic resource allocation, today’s announcement includes funding for 25 new projects that will provide permanent supportive housing to individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness in areas with especially high need. These new projects were awarded as part of a special competition designed to help the Department make progress toward its goal of ending chronic homelessness.

Details about Funds Announced Today for CoCs and Applicants
As stated in the FY 2014 CoC Program Funding Notice, HUD is issuing this single funding announcement that includes conditional funding for those projects that passed the eligibility and threshold criteria: renewal projects, new permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing projects that were created through reallocation, new permanent supportive housing projects created through the Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus, CoC planning, and UFA Costs.

Adjustments to Funding
The conditional award amounts included for renewal projects may be different than the request that was submitted in the project application. The McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by the HEARTH Act, requires HUD to make certain adjustments to funding prior to award. These adjustments were made after the tiers were established and are as follows:

  1. Funds awarded for rental assistance were adjusted by applying the Fair Market Rent (FMR) in effect at the time of application submission (including decreases). View the FY 2015 Fair Market Rent Limits.
  2. Funds awarded for operating and leasing in permanent housing projects were increased based on the average increase in FMR amounts within a CoC’s geographic area, weighted for population density. Because operating and leasing costs do not decrease relative to rent amounts for specific units, adjustments were not made to these costs if the FMRs decreased in the geographic area.
  3. In addition to these required adjustments, projects were reviewed to ensure that they were consistent with the approved Grants Inventory Worksheet and CoC Program interim rule.

If you have additional questions or require more specific information, please submit a question to the e-snaps HUD Exchange Ask A Question or contact your local HUD CPD field office.


Housing is Fundamental to Affordability


The opinion piece below was written by Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Community Development and Chair of the Vermont Housing Council.

As too many Vermonters struggle to make ends meet, affordability has rightly taken its place at the center of public debate. Often missing from the discussion, however, has been the cost of housing. If we are to succeed in closing the affordability gap, housing must be central to the conversation.

The shortage of affordable homes in Vermont impacts our lives, communities, economy and demand for state services. It sometimes means growing businesses aren’t able to fill key positions because potential recruits can’t find housing. It means many working families don’t have enough money for food, health care or transportation, never mind saving to buy a home, pay for college or retire. In the worst cases, families fall behind on rent, lose their apartments and become homeless.

Housing is considered affordable when its cost — rent and utilities for renters and mortgage, property taxes and insurance for owners — equals 30 percent or less of a household’s income. Housing costs for 46 percent of Vermont’s renter households are higher. An alarming 22 percent use more than half of their income to cover rent and utilities. Among homeowners, one-third spend more than 30 percent and 12 percent pay more than half of their income for housing. It is little wonder that Vermonters are feeling burdened by these costs.

These were among the findings of a statewide housing needs assessment recently completed by a national research firm on behalf of the Department of Housing and Community Development. The assessment was undertaken to help target state and federal housing dollars to the greatest needs and is the most comprehensive conducted in ten years.

The assessment found an overall statewide vacancy rate of only one percent for rental housing of more than two units, far below the four to six percent that is considered a balanced market. Housing options are limited for households at all income levels and extremely so for those with low incomes. There is a clear need for more multifamily housing.

While the assessment found a significant shortage of affordable housing, it also shows that state programs are making progress. State funding through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, coupled with federal resources through Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grants and the HOME program, are both helping meet this need and bringing investment to our communities.

Every year, these programs make possible the construction of hundreds of new, affordable apartments across Vermont. Hundreds more single family homes are rehabilitated and made more energy efficient. Existing affordable rental properties with expiring federal contracts are preserved and made permanently affordable. Services and rental assistance are provided to help vulnerable Vermonters find and keep their homes. And the Administration worked with the Legislature to make changes to the state’s designation programs and Act 250 that encourage private sector development of housing.

But more remains to be done. Our successes are bumping up against national trends of slow wage growth, increased demand for rental housing, an aging population and strict lending requirements that make it harder to buy a home.

Governor Peter Shumlin’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal reflects the Administration’s commitment to help struggling Vermonters. Despite tremendous financial pressures, the budget maintains funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) and protects Agency of Human Services (AHS) programs that combat homelessness.

The Department of Housing and Community Development, along with the AHS and VHCB, just completed a series of seven community outreach meetings. The cost and availability of housing were the most frequently raised concerns. Similarly, in meetings held around the state last year to develop the first Statewide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, the need for affordable housing to support workforce growth came up again and again.

With this input, data from the housing needs assessment, and strategies from the state’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, the Department is now crafting a Consolidated Plan to best target the resources currently available to housing and other community needs over the next five years.
Deliberations at the Statehouse have now begun in earnest. As lawmakers debate critical issues such as the budget, property tax reform and energy goals, the Department of Housing and Community Development hopes the impact of policy choices on the cost of housing and the needs of Vermonters will be paramount.

Without a stable and affordable home, it is nearly impossible to be a good parent, a motivated student, a productive employee, an effective volunteer or an engaged citizen. It is even more impossible to overcome challenges such as mental illness or addiction. Housing is the foundation of communities and success for all Vermonters.

To view online click here.
To download a PDF click here.
To view the 2015-2020 Housing Needs Assessment (PDF file) click here.
To view the Housing Needs Assessment Overview (PDF file) click here.


VHFA FY 2014 Annual Report

Posted January 23, 2015

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency has released their FY 2014 Annual Report. The report contains detailed statistical information on who, where and how the VHFA has helped achieve homeownership and more. To view and download the report click here (PDF file).

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