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Champlain Housing Trust Event in Colchester with Governor Shumlin on Monday, May 4th

Posted April 30, 2015

This coming Monday, May 4 at 10am Governor Shumlin will be joining Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont to announce state and federal grant awards for our efforts to preserve the affordability and invest in energy efficiency at Winchester Place in Colchester.

What: Announcement of grant awards for Winchester Place, a 166-apartment development in Colchester

When: Monday, May 4 at 10am

Where: Winchester Place, 7 Douglas Drive, Colchester (between the Vermont National Guard and Fort Ethan Allen on Route 15, take Barnes Avenue to Hegeman, then left onto Douglas)

About Winchester Place and the redevelopment:

Built in 1989, Winchester Place’s 166 apartments are a significant piece of Chittenden County’s affordable housing stock. The property is conveniently located on Route 15 and rarely has any vacancies. Almost all of the apartments have two bedrooms, with just a handful of three bedroom apartments. The average rent at the property is $1,050; Fair Market Rent for Chittenden County is $1,328. There are no vacancies among the 166 apartments.

The work to be undertaken will secure the affordability of Winchester Place’s apartments for the long-term as a resource for the community. In all, approximately $14 million will be invested into the property, including purchasing the land from St. Michael’s College, investing in energy efficiency measures such as new windows, air sealing and insulation, conducting site work, and improving storm water systems. The work will begin in the summer of 2015. Funding has come from the Vermont Community Development Program, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, State and Federal housing tax credits, the Town of Colchester, the federal HOME program, NeighborWorks® America with construction and permanent financing from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. The Ronald McDonald House Charities in Burlington recently awarded a $3,000 grant to help install a playground.



AHS/DCF Emergency Housing Proposal

Posted April 28, 2015

The Agency of Human Services and Department for Children and Families have just announced a proposal to restructure their emergency housing program. Please read more below and click here for the referenced attachment. The deadine to submit feedback is May 8th. DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz and other representatives will be at the May 13th VAHC meeting to discuss the proposal. The Coalition is also seeking feedback from members on the proposal, which can be emailed to

Hello Fellow Housing Partners –

We are writing to let you know that DCF is proposing to restructure its emergency housing program.  Attached to this email is an outline of a proposal to repurpose the money used for hotel vouchers in the GA program to fund community grants to homeless providers across the state.  It sets forth a path to transition from providing emergency housing using motels to using community based services such as low barrier and warming shelters, transitional housing and other services to meet the needs of all homeless individuals and families effective October 1, 2015.

While DCF leadership recognizes this is an ambitious plan and timeframe, we believe it is achievable.  We have heard many concerns from community partners, ESD staff and homeless individuals and families that the current system is not adequately addressing the ever increasing rate of homelessness, nor providing a pathway to stable, permanent housing.  We ask you, our community partners, to help us address the problem of homelessness in our state in a way that matches the needs and capacity in your community while addressing the needs of people regardless of their age, disability or sobriety who require emergency shelter due to homelessness, domestic violence or other factors.

Over the coming weeks DCF will engage our community partners across the state to seek input on the proposal.  An important element to the proposal is seeking legislation to  have the authority should we move forward with this change.

Please feel free to forward this email to your housing partners and to review the attached document and respond with comments, questions and suggestions by May 8th via email (see addresses and instructions below).  Or, if you prefer, please bring your questions to your next Continuum of Care or Housing meeting as we will be visiting local meetings in the upcoming weeks.

Thank you,
AHS Secretary Hal Cohen and DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz

Should you decide to email your questions or input, please feel free to direct it to with “Emergency Housing Initiative” in the subject line:

Sean Brown, Deputy Commissioner Economic Services Division –
Paul Dragon, Director of DCF’s Office of Economic Opportunity –
Karen Vastine, Principal Assistant to Commissioner Schatz –


VHFA Awards $2.98 Million in Affordable Housing Tax Credits

Posted April 24, 2015

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency recently awarded $2.89 milion in housing tax credits to several organizations across Vermont. From the VHFA website:

On Monday, April 20, the VHFA Board of Commissioners committed $2.55 million in federal low-income housing tax credits and $432,500 in state housing tax credits to expand Vermont’s stock of affordable, energy-efficient housing. The tax credits will generate approximately $23.5 million in upfront equity for the construction and rehabilitation of 452 primarily rental homes across the state, guaranteed to remain affordable for at least 30 years.

Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of VHFA, explained that, “with over half of Vermont’s renters paying unsustainable portions of their income for housing, the need to preserve and expand the number of apartments that will be affordable in the long-run is clear. The investments made by VHFA today will add new homes to the market in Burlington, Milton, Hartford and Vergennes and rehabilitate and secure the long-term affordability of existing housing in Springfield, Brattleboro, Lyndonville, Fair Haven, Bennington and Colchester.”

In Burlington, the redevelopment of a building owned by the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) at 95 North Street will create 14 rental units, a new COTS Daystation and office space for COTS staff. Four of the 14 apartments will be for tenants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to eviction. These tenants will work closely with COTS case managers and have access to the critical resources provided through the Daystation such as meals, phones and computers. Although the remaining ten apartments will be more traditional affordable rental units, they will primarily target households who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The Bright Street project will transform a block of deteriorating residential and warehouse buildings in Burlington’s Old North End into four new buildings providing 42 apartments, mostly offering one or two bedrooms. The site is part of the State’s Brownfield Reuse Environmental Liability Limitation Program which will help to plan the clean-up of the soil’s high levels of lead and arsenic. The project will be a leasing housing cooperative through Champlain Housing Trust.

In Burlington’s South Meadow development, Champlain Housing Trust will convert 30 apartments into affordably-priced homes for sale. This is part of a larger redevelopment of this 148-unit property by Champlain Housing Trust, who acquired the property in 2012 to preserve the use of the majority of its units as affordable rental housing.

In Milton’s new town center, the Cathedral Square Corporation will construct 30 apartments for seniors. Milton Senior Housing will feature covered parking, elevators serving the 3-story building, a kitchen/dining area, living room, meeting space, offices for nurse visits and residential staff, libraries, laundry facilities, a gym, a salon and an activity room. Residents will participate in Cathedral Square’s Support and Services at Home (SASH) program that coordinates health care services for seniors in residential settings. A walking path behind the building will lead to the UVM Medical Center’s Milton Family Practice medical offices.

In eight Hartford-area buildings, 35 primarily one- and two-bedroom apartments will be rehabilitated and constructed on five sites owned and managed by Twin Pines Housing Trust. Three existing buildings will be demolished and replaced with new buildings that are much more energy efficient and have more functional layouts.

Gevry Park is about a mile from downtown Vergennes, just over the town boundary putting it in the small town of Waltham. This project will involve replacing 13 abandoned, uninhabitable mobile homes with 14 new, primarily two-bedroom, high-efficiency Vermod duplexes. In addition to meeting many passive housing standards, plans include equipping each home with a 6,000KW solar array to provide energy for heating, cooling, lights, cooking and water heating that will reduce utility costs to an estimated $25 per month. Addison County Community Trust will manage the project’s development and operation.

At Winchester Place in Colchester, Champlain Housing Trust will acquire and rehabilitate148 two-bedroom units. Building improvements will increase energy efficiency, upgrade the site and building exteriors, update kitchen and bath fixtures and replace windows, doors and decks. Although the bulk of the units will be rented, 18 will be sold to qualifying home buyers.

In Brattleboro, the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust is rehabilitating and improving 29 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. All buildings will receive comprehensive air sealing increased insulation and window replacement. Buildings at the Green Street site will also receive siding, insulation and heating system improvements. Buildings at the Clark and Canal site will be suited with new high-efficiency boilers and solar domestic hot water systems.

The Evergreen Heights apartment complex in Springfield will be acquired from a private owner and rehabilitated by Windham and Windsor Housing Trust to preserve that complex’s 44 one-, two- and three-bedroom units as affordable rental housing. Most renovations will improve energy efficiency, such as replacing electric heating system with a central wood pellet system and replacing windows and doors. In addition, seven units will receive new updates to bring them into compliance with current accessibility rules.

The Darling Inn in Lyndonville which includes 27 rental apartments for seniors as well as a resident manager’s apartment will be acquired and rehabilitated by Rural Edge. Although the building was originally constructed as a hotel, it was later converted to apartments for seniors and is currently a SASH program site, providing care coordination, management and assessments to participating seniors. Renovations will focus on upgrading the building’s fire, egress and electrical systems, improving accessibility and increasing energy efficiency. The Darling Inn also includes community space and a kitchen which is used for Meals on Wheels and resident events.

The Adams House, containing 13 rental apartments for seniors in Fair Haven, will be rehabilitated by the Housing Trust of Rutland County to improve energy efficiency, conduct site work, upgrade interior and exterior finishes and make life safety code improvements. Residents of these apartments will continue to have access to the SASH program.

In Bennington, Shires Housing will rehabilitate 26 units in historic buildings built in 1875-1900. Renovations will include code-compliance upgrades, lead and asbestos hazard mitigation, accessibility improvements and energy efficiency improvements.

In addition to the equity created by their allocation of housing credits, other funding sources for these projects will include the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the federal HOME program, NeighborWorks, TD Foundation, Vermont Gas, Burlington Electric Department, the Vermont Community Development Program, Federal Home Loan Bank Board, Efficiency Vermont and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Housing Vermont is a critically important development partner working with the local sponsors on five of these projects.


VPR Segment on Ending Homelessness

Posted April 22, 2015

Recently, VPR commentator John Vogel discussed Governor Shumlin’s plan to end homelessness and the Housing First model. For a link that includes audio, click here.

Governor Shumlin recently announced a new plan to end homelessness by 2020. Unfortunately, the plan seems to be getting little traction, perhaps because he introduced a similar, five year plan in 2013, and since then homelessness in Vermont has actually gone up.

So I’ve been wondering whether other states are doing any better. Surprisingly, the state that seems to be having the most success in reducing chronic homelessness is Utah, where they’ve come up with a program called Housing First – based on the radically simple idea that the solution to homelessness is giving people a home.

Rather than spend a lot of money helping people to get ready for permanent housing, Utah builds nice, new apartments and gives them to chronically homeless people at minimal rents. Having the stability of a home provides a strong incentive to deal with personal issues and find a job.

Utah also supplements this housing with services. As a result, Utah has reduced its chronically homeless population by 72%.

At first, most people assume it would be prohibitively expensive to simply put homeless people in nice apartments. It turns out, however, that the hidden costs incurred by our homeless neighbors like repeat visits to the emergency room are actually quite high.

Colorado did a study and found that the average homeless person costs the state forty-three thousand dollars a year whereas it only cost seventeen thousand dollars a year to provide him or her with decent housing.

Similarly, in Canada they did a controlled study of 2,000 homeless people with mental illness and found that the housing first approach saved $23,000 per person per year.

Researchers have also found that placing an emphasis on housing improved the participants’ physical and mental health.

Essentially the Housing First program focuses on prevention – which almost always proves to be cost effective. Prevention is also the most humane approach, especially considering that families with children make up about half of Vermont’s homeless population.

And it turns out that the Housing First model is currently being tried in a limited way by a group called Pathways Vermont and is having some success both in helping chronically homeless people and in saving the State money.

Ultimately the Housing First approach makes me optimistic that Vermont can, in fact, eliminate homelessness and that the critical first step is building enough houses so that every homeless person has a decent place to live.


Save the Date: National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference in Washington, D.C., July 15-17


Early registration has opened for the National Alliance to End Homelessness 2015 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, which will take place at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel from July 15 to 17, with early check-in on July 14. The Alliance encourages you to register by 3 p.m. EDT on May 15 to ensure your spot and take advantage of the early rate of $525 per person. On that date, the registration will open at the regular rate of $575. Look for future updates and additional information about the conference on the conference website.



Spring Creates New Challenges For Vermont’s Homeless

Posted April 21, 2015

While there is much talk about the challenges that winter creates for Vermont’s homeless, with spring comes a new set of challenges. In this VPR report Elizabeth Ready, director of the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, discusses some of the challenges homeless providers face once the seasons change and winter emergency shelter programs end:

Although nights may not be as bitter cold, new challenges face Vermont’s homeless population now that spring has sprung.

Elizabeth Ready, director of the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, sees those challenges every day and is working to help find a safe, permanent home for Vermont’s homeless population.

Warmer nights mean an end to warming shelters throughout the state. “That means that some people are immediately looking to get into permanent shelter,” says Ready. “So we do see a little bit of an increase at this time as people that were formerly spending the night in the warming shelters are looking for a place to go.”

Ready says that there are people who camp once it warms up, but that many don’t think camping is the best idea for homeless families and youth. “Another thing is that many of the people in the warming shelters have illnesses that really should preclude them from being outside,” says Ready. She explains that at the shelter right now, there are people with emphysema, MS and cancer. “Our youngest person is a newborn and our oldest is 74. You see people with mental illness, people that need medication management, so more and more people that are seeking shelter are not necessarily healthy people who can just go out and thrive outside. So I think that the end goal always has to be permanent, safe, stable housing,” says the shelter director.

Ready says that Vermont has seen a recent increase in homeless families. “It’s a pretty simple formula: The cost of housing exceeds people’s ability to pay, even when people are working. A lot of people are working now at the shelter, mostly everybody, but they may be working at a fast food place, supermarket, on the farm, in the nursing home … and they’re just not making enough to pay the rent.”

Rent is expensive, says Ready, especially in Chittenden and Addison County, and it’s hard for people to compete with students and young professionals in the housing market. “What we try to do is work with people to bridge the gap, whether it means employment, or getting a housing choice voucher or Vermont rental subsidies, whatever it’s going to take.”

Ready says the young homeless population, especially in the LGBT community, is especially vulnerable. “They may be healthy and young, but people are very vulnerable … to abuse, they are vulnerable to being taken advantage of, so we really don’t like to see youth camping, especially in the LGBT population, because we just don’t want to see any harm come to them,” says Ready. “The thing is to create really safe spaces where people feel supported, people feel that they have a sense of community, a sense of belonging. So, it’s really more than just a room or just a shelter, it’s a sense that they belong somewhere.”

And that’s exactly what Ready tries to do at the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes – create a safe space. She says her excellent staff, all thoroughly screened before being hired, are at the shelter 24 hours per day, seven days a week, and that they have counselors with substance abuse backgrounds available to talk at all hours of the day. “We also just have a really safe environment at night. There are deadlines that people have to be in and there is staff there all around the clock and there are always people there who can sit down and help you try to problem solve, whether it’s a housing issue or trying to get a ride to work, just try to work things out,” she says.

One thing that Ready says keeps her hopeful and has been a “tremendous help” to the shelter is Vermont’s rental subsidy program. “It has been a lifesaver for a lot of people. What happens is if we get a shelter full of people and we can’t move them, especially in the winter, it becomes a destitute situation. People don’t have much hope, they don’t know how they’ll get out … So we what we do is work with this rental subsidy,” Says Ready. She explains that although anyone can apply, it is scored, so those who are working with children often get the highest scores. “We’ve been able to really help people get into units of their own and then we follow them with case management resources, make sure they are paying the rent, helping them to be good tenants, and then at the end of the year they are hopefully going to move on and be independent,” she says.

Ready says that in Vermont, people understand that everyone needs a warm, safe space indoors. “More and more people are getting the idea that this is the kind of suffering we don’t want our neighbors to go through,” she says.

To view the full article, including audio, click here.


Affordable Housing Plan Near Vergennes Holds Promise


The Addison County Independent reports on a possible new project by Addison County Community Trust that would bring seven new affordable rental homes to Vergennes. Below is an excerpt from the article:

A Waltham affordable housing project that the Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) has looked at for years now could become a reality.

The ACCT has applied to the Waltham Development Review board for a conditional use permit that would allow the trust to install seven modular duplexes on a 2.3-acre Maple Street Extension site that until 2009 housed the Gevry trailer park.

A public hearing on ACCT’s roughly $3 million proposal to clear off and then redevelop the remnants of the abandoned park will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 13 in Waltham Town Hall.

ACCT Executive Director Elise Shanbacker said if all goes well, the project could be complete by next spring on a parcel that abuts Vergennes and is served by municipal water and sewer.

The modular duplexes — to be build by a company based in the Vermont town of Wilder — would be rented to families at a rate equal to 30 percent of 60 percent of Addison County’s median income. Using the 2012 median annual income of $57,785 (as reported by that rent would be around $867 per month.

“The rents will be affordable to families making 60 percent or less of area median income,” Shanbacker said.

Funding for the project is forecast to come from the sale of low-income housing tax credits, which Shanbacker said should be awarded this week; a Vermont Housing and Conservation Board grant that is expected in June; and a Vermont Community Development Block Grant, for which ACCT will apply in the fall.

ACCT already owns and operates a number of parks in the county, including the nearby Otter Creek Park in Vergennes, its largest; Middlebury’s Lindale park off Case Street; and, among others, facilities in Bristol, Starksboro and Ferrisburgh.

Former ACCT Executive Director Terry McKnight approached Waltham about a Gevry Park project in 2009, and several options have been discussed since then, including senior housing and possibly creating owner-occupied units. The project stalled after that until the former owners agreed to sell the property to ACCT after a lengthy time on the market.

Shanbacker said she discovered McKnight, who died in November 2014, had also talked to Gevry Park residents as far back as 2002 about the trust possibly assuming ownership of the property.

“It’s certainly been a long time coming,” she said.

Shanbacker said the 14 affordable units would meet a critical need in the area.

“In the latest housing needs assessment that came out, Addison County still has a vacancy rate below 1 percent, and in particular I think there’s a lot of demand for family housing,” she said.

To read the full article, click here.


VNRC Seeking Nominations for Arthur Gibb Award

Posted April 20, 2015

The Vermont Natural Resources Council is accepting nominations for the 2015 Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership.

“Every year, VNRC honors the legacy of Art Gibb – his commitment to safeguarding Vermont’s values and unique landscape, along with his leadership, vision and dedication to building consensus,” said Kate McCarthy, VNRC’s Sustainable Communities Program Director. She said this year VNRC seeks to honor an individual whose leadership at the state level has brought about positive and lasting change in the way communities across Vermont integrate growth and conservation. Individuals who have demonstrated similar leadership at the local level will be honored in alternating years, she said.

Previous recipients of the award (starting with the most recent) include Andrea Morgante, the owner of a landscaping businesses and accomplished community conservationist in Hinesburg; Bob Klein, long-time director of the Vermont chapter of the Nature Conservancy; John Ewing, long-time smart growth advocate and co-founder of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl (later known as Smart Growth Vermont); Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; Rob Woolmington, attorney, Witten, Woolmington & Campbell; Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont; Robert Lloyd, Tinmouth, retired; Connie Snow, executive director of the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust. The award has been given out since 2006.

People from around Vermont nominate candidates and a committee made of up Art Gibb’s colleagues, friends and family review the applications. The 2015 award will be presented at the annual meeting of the Vermont Natural Resources Council in September.

Arthur Gibb, a legend in Vermont conservation history, dedicated much of his life to ensuring the state was a better place for future generations. Beginning his public service as a “fence viewer” in the town of Weybridge, Arthur went on to serve his community and state in countless ways until his death in 2005 at the age of 97.

Arthur was first elected to the Vermont Legislature in 1962. He was deeply involved in passing legislation to ban billboards, enact the state’s bottle deposit law, regulate junkyards and modernize statutes governing local and regional planning.

In 1969, Governor Deane Davis appointed Arthur to chair the Governor’s Commission on Environmental Control, commonly referred to as the “Gibb Commission.” The commission held many public hearings over the summer of 1969. The result of its work was Act 250, Vermont’s pioneering land use law.

Smart Growth Vermont founded the Art Gibb Award in 2006. Smart Growth Vermont and merged with VNRC in July of 2011, and since then VNRC has continued celebrating Art Gibb’s work with this award..

To nominate someone or learn more, please visit or email Kate McCarthy at Applications are due on May 1, 2015.



Save the Date: Fair Housing Accessibility Training in Randolph Center, June 2nd

Posted April 17, 2015

On Tuesday, June 2nd a Fair Housing Accessibility Training will be held at the Red Schoolhouse, Vermont Technical College, 46 South Randolph Road, Randolph Center, VT. This FREE training is presented by the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Program, which provides training and technical assistance on the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act with assistance from HUD. The training is sponsored by VHCB and co-sponsored by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, Vermont Center for Independent Living, and Vermont Legal Aid.

The training will focus on the design and construction aspects of the Fair Housing Act. The presenter will be Jack Catlin, FAIA, a partner at LCM Architects and former chair of the U.S. Access Board. The following modules will be covered:

Module 10 – Design and Construction Requirements of the Fair Housing Act: Technical Overview
Module 7 – Accessible Routes
Module 8 – Accessible Public and Common-Use Areas

This information is crucial for developers and architects who need to understand the details of the Fair Housing Act’s design requirements.

If you have questions, please contact Grace Sonnabend at LCM Architects at

For more information, click here to view the event flyer (PDF).



Gov. Shumlin Signs Two Housing Protection Bills into Law


Yesterday Gov. Peter Shumlin marked the anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act by signing two housing protection bills into law and declaring April Fair Housing Month. The first bill, H.123, ensures mobile home parks are safely maintained and abandoned mobile homes can be dealt with fairly and expeditiously. Also enacted today was H.256, which corrects and confirms protections against retaliation for exercising fair housing rights.

“It is integral that we protect the right of Vermonters to live in safe and healthy communities, and these bills will do just that,” said Gov. Shumlin.

Each April, Governor Shumlin and governors before him set aside time to remember the great step in Civil Rights taken through the signing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects the right to housing choice regardless of color, race or national origin. Since then Vermont has made greater progress, ensuring that housing choice is not limited by someone’s age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or because they receive public assistance.

“Barriers to safe, decent and affordable housing are not always financial. Sadly, discrimination and disrepair sometimes prevent Vermonters from finding a home or being safe in the one they have.” said Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Community Development. “Today and every day, we must work together to lower these barriers. This legislation gives us more practical tools for ensuring homes are safe and their doors are open to all.”

H.123 recognizes that a safe, healthy community should not be dependent upon the type of housing one chooses. This bill makes certain that residents of a mobile home park have access to emergency response services and will not be needlessly subjected to blighted and abandoned homes in their communities. It also gives the Department of Housing and Community Development the ability to ensure habitability standards are maintained and that leases governing these communities are not discriminatory.

H.256 contains a technical correction to Fair Housing protections that ensures Vermont continues its role in maintaining and surpassing Federal standards regarding the ability of citizens to ensure they are treated fairly in their housing. It also brings additional clarity to property rights in a residential rental agreement to encourage a functional rental market.

The Governor thanked Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal) for his sponsorship and longstanding support of mobile home park residents. He also acknowledged the leadership of House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee Chairwoman Helen Head (D-South Burlington), Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington), and Senate Economic, Housing and General Affairs Committee Chairman Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), in guiding the legislation through their committees and chambers.


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