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New Affordable Housing Underway in Brattleboro

Posted September 2, 2015

with shovels wide
Photo Credit: Kenn Sassorossi

Almost four years from the day that Tropical Storm Irene devastated Brattleboro and other Vermont communities, Senator Patrick Leahy led a celebration which marked the start of construction of Red Clover Commons, a 55-unit apartment building which will provide replacement housing for residents of Melrose Terrace.

Melrose Terrace, constructed by the Brattleboro Housing Authority in 1965, is adjacent to the Whetsone Brook and much of the property is in the floodway and flood plain. The entire site was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and 60 of the 80 apartments were damaged. Those units have been repaired and re-occupied, but it was clear to the Housing Authority that the senior and disabled residents needed to be relocated to a safer site.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy said: “Looking at this progress, it is hard to imagine that four years ago, many of us were still emerging from our communities for the first time to see the damage that Tropical Storm Irene had wrought across our great state. Today I am proud to stand with Brattleboro to celebrate the extraordinary effort undertaken to replace Melrose Terrace and give new life to Canal Street. This project represents the partnership and perseverance of our communities to thrive in the wake of disaster and build much-needed safe, affordable, energy efficient housing in Southern Vermont.”

The Brattleboro Housing Partnership (which is the new name of the Brattleboro Housing Authority) and Housing Vermont partnered to create Red Clover Commons on a vacant 2.8-acre site on Fairground Road. The 3-story building will offer a total of 55 apartments—53 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom units—for seniors and those of any age with disabilities. Potential residents must have annual incomes less than 50% of the HUD area median; the current limits are $22,950 for a single person and $26,200 for a two-person household. All residents will benefit from project-based rent subsidies through the Vermont State Housing Authority.

“All 55 apartments will be occupied by residents relocating form Melrose Terrace. The 25 residents remaining at Melrose will then have top priority to move to Red Clover,” explained Brattleboro Housing Partnership Executive Director Chris Hart.

Red Clover Commons will offer several amenities including resident support services through the SASH program and will feature an innovative geothermal heating and cooling system.

“The architects gave careful consideration to how the building relates to the neighborhood and best serves our future tenants,” said Kathy Beyer, Vice President of Housing Development for Housing Vermont. “The welcoming main entry, which includes a front pouch to greet guests and to relax, leads into a gracious lobby area. The adjoining community dining room and kitchen/café overlook an outdoor terrace and resident gardens.”

The building is also highly energy efficient and will utilize geothermal wells to provide year-round heating and cooling. A high efficiency central chiller will be used to heat and cool water. “We expect to lower our heating and cooling costs by about 50 percent,” Beyer said.

Funding totaling $15.9 million from several private and public sources was raised to finance the total development cost. HUD’s CDBG-Disaster Relief program, sponsored by Senator Leahy with support from Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, is providing a critical $5.5 million loan. The People’s United Bank is investing $7.5 million in equity through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and is also the source of construction financing and a $1 million permanent loan. Other funding sources included the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, HOME program, Efficiency Vermont, and the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships and Housing Vermont.

“The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is delighted to be providing more than $5 million for Red Clover Commons,” said ACCD Secretary Patricia Moulton. “By creating new energy-efficient, affordable homes out of the reach of floodwaters, the project both addresses and prepares for climate change. We are grateful for the partnership between the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships and Housing Vermont and the support of Senator Leahy which are making it possible to replace housing that has been repeatedly flooded by the Whetstone.”

Gossens Bachman Architects was the project architect and Trumbull-Nelson Construction is the general contractor. Red Clover Commons will open its doors in September 2016.


Brattleboro Replaces Public Housing Damaged By Tropical Storm Irene

Posted October 1, 2013

Yesterday Vermont Public Radio had a story on the public housing being replaced in Brattleboro:

The Brattleboro Housing Authority has announced plans for fifty-five new apartments to replace public housing damaged in tropical storm Irene.

But the project faces challenges because of changes in the federal government’s approach to public housing.

The new development, called Red Clover Commons, will only partially replace the eighty units at Melrose Terrace. The complex, whose residents are elderly or disabled, had to be evacuated during the 2011 storm.

Tenants were allowed back after the damaged buildings were repaired — but only temporarily because the complex is in a flood hazard area.

Melrose Terrace was built in 1965. It’s one of five developments in Brattleboro that were built and subsidized by HUD, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Affairs.

But Brattleboro Housing Authority  Director  Christine Hart says those days are gone.

“And now,” says Hart, “HUD really is looking to housing authorities to use other sources of funds — the low income housing tax credits, different programs that can be used with section 8.”

The Brattleboro Housing Authority is working with Housing Vermont to access those funding programs and move the project forward.

The agencies have an option on a 2.8-acre site, convenient to stores and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Hart says Melrose residents are very much involved in the relocation process. They considered several locations.

“And they loved this site,” Hart says. “I can’t tell you how many people said to me, ‘This is where we need to be.’”

But Hart says the very low rents that have benefited Melrose tenants will be a challenge to sustain.

“The dilemma is that we’re taking people that have a public housing subsidy, we’re moving them to a brand new building,” says Hart. “And we need to make sure that we find a way to keep their rent the same as it has been under the public housing, because HUD is not building public housing anymore.”

The project got some good news recently. The Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development has earmarked five million dollars in expected flood disaster relief funds for the Brattleboro project.

But Red Clover Commons is expected to cost  thirteen million. And the fifty-five-unit project leaves twenty-five more Melrose residents still in need of replacement housing.

The Brattleboro Housing Authority also needs to find a new location for its own offices, which are also at Melrose Terrace.

Read the full article and listen to the original report online.  For a PDF of the article click here.


Federal public housing program tightens competition for financing

Posted June 21, 2013

“The Melrose Terrace public housing development was full long before FEMA maps placed it squarely in a special flood hazard area. Its 80 or more elderly and disabled residents were accustomed to evacuations long before and long after President Bill Clinton issued a presidential order that no critical population shall be housed in a flood zone using federal money…

Since 1937, housing agencies…traditionally have relied on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the vast majority of their public housing funding. But a new test program would lead them to the world of private equity…”

Link to Full Article 

View PDF of Full VTDigger Article




NPR – Sequester Uncertainty Surrounds Section 8 Housing Program

Posted April 10, 2013

Housing authorities nationwide are feeling the effects of sequestration and face serious cuts to the housing programs they administer.

By Kara Bradeisky. Reposted from NPR, April 8, 2013.

“‘The severity of the shortfall in voucher renewal funding caused by sequestration is unprecedented in the history of the program,’ Rice wrote in the report. ‘Facing such large shortfalls, agencies will be forced to take steps to reduce program costs quickly, even as they spend down reserves’…

Link to Full NPR Article 

View PDF of Full NPR Article


Sequester hits home with cuts to BHA

Posted April 9, 2013

“BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Housing Authority is letting its Section 8 tenants know that recent federal budget cuts will likely force a decrease in the monthly housing aid they receive.

BHA sent out a letter to its tenants last week explaining that cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development caused by the sequester will reduce the payment standard for all tenants to 90 percent of the fair market rent.

The amount of money each Section 8 tenant receives to help pay for rent varies depending on income, the rent payment, and other factors, and BHA Executive Director Chris Hart said the impact will vary from tenant to tenant…”

Link to Full Brattleboro Reformer 

View PDF of Full Brattleboro Reformer Article