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New Affordable Housing Co-op Underway in Burlington

Posted August 28, 2015

groundbreaking smaller

Photo credit: Kenn Sassorossi

Thursday morning brought together scores of interested onlookers as two local nonprofit housing developers were joined by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Vermont’s Speaker of the House Shap Smith to mark the beginning of construction of a new housing co-op in Burlington’s Old North End.

“The Bright Street Housing Cooperative will create greatly-needed new affordable housing opportunities in Burlington, and will continue the recent progress of substantial new investment in the Old North End,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Congratulations and thank you to the Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont for the creative, dedicated work that has made today’s groundbreaking possible and for your partnership in the long-term effort to make Burlington more affordable.”

“We know that community centers and downtowns are what many young families seek out as they search for places to work and grow a home. The Bright Street Housing Cooperative provides housing opportunity in this neighborhood in a way that reflects local needs and values. It was created with community involvement. When complete, it will offer housing that people need and can afford,” added Vermont Speaker of the House Shap Smith.

Two nonprofits – Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont – are collaborating to build the development that will create 40 new homes on the one and a quarter acre brownfield site. Construction is underway and occupancy is expected in September, 2016. Four old, blighted buildings are to be removed to make way for the new housing in three buildings. Land is set aside for the possibility of installing a community garden at a later date.

“We are excited to be here in the Old North End creating new affordable apartments for the first time in more than a decade,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “We’re also thrilled to be organizing this development as a co-op giving the residents some of the benefits of ownership – as the neighborhood requested – while imparting leadership and business skills to the people who move in.”

Funding for the housing came from a variety of sources, including investments made by TD Bank through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Grants from HUD-funded programs were instrumental to the development, including support from NeighborWorks® America, HOME and Community Development Block Grants (commonly known as CDBG), the latter administered by the City of Burlington. Support and financing also came from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Housing Finance Agency, Burlington Electric Department, Vermont Gas, the City of Burlington’s Housing Trust Fund, TD Charitable Foundation, and the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission.

In addition, the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and State of Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation early support allowed the developers to hire professional expertise to conduct Environmental Site Assessments and Archeological Resource Assessments of the property, facilitating the redevelopment.

“While this project will bring long lasting housing and community development benefits to residents, the neighborhood and the broader community, it also generates significant economic advantages,” said Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens. “It will create 118 on-site jobs and 177 off-site jobs while providing more than $25 million in construction and indirect economic benefit.”

D.E.W. Construction out of Williston is the general contractor for the development and Duncan Wisniewski Architecture is the project’s architect. The cost of the development, including the environmental clean-up of the site, is approximately $11.7 million.

The housing will include a range of bedroom sizes to house both individuals and families. While not firm yet, rents for the two-bedroom expect to range between $775 and $1,200 a month, heat and hot water included. Fair Market Rent, as determined by HUD, is $1,328 for a two-bedroom apartment.

“We receive over 150 applications a month from people looking for an affordable rental, and we’ll only have a handful available,” explained CHT’s Torpy. “Building new housing like this is so critical for people in Burlington and surrounding communities.”

For more coverage of this story view the articles linked below:
Nonprofits Break Ground on Bright St. Co-op (Burlington Free Press)
City Celebrates New Option For Low-Cost Living (WPTZ)

 



Shelburne Tries to Quell Shelter Concerns

Posted June 19, 2015

This week the Burlington Free Press reported on how members of the community in Shelburne and service providers are working together to make sure that Harbor Place is safe for both guests and neighbors. Below is an excerpt from the article:

“The goal is that with some simple tweaks in the process, we can make it better.” he said. “Even though it is an excellent alternative for the agencies, it is still not meeting the expectations of Shelburne.”

Shelburne Police Chief James Warden, reached by telephone on Friday, said Champlain Housing Trust has responded every time he has asked for help from the agency. For example, they have paid for a higher security presence and purchased video security cameras.

“We want it to work,” Warden said, adding that his request is for agencies to prevent “undesirables” from being sent to Harbor Place, so others can feel safe. He said violators of Harbor Place rules should not be allowed back, even after a 30-day waiting period.

Michael Monte, chief operations and financial officer for the Champlain Housing Trust, said Harbor Place is enormously better than a system of randomly placing people in hotels throughout Chittenden County.

“But what we really need are more long-term and permanent affordable housing, and we are dedicated to providing that,” Monte said. “Our goal is to create 40 more homes for the chronically homeless and 30 additional homes for homeless families in the next year.”

The Harbor Place site could not currently be considered for permanent multi-family residences, said Shelburne Town Planner Dean Pierce, because of the zoning requirement for 10,000 square feet of property for each dwelling unit in the mixed-use zone.

If the form-based zoning being discussed for Shelburne comes to fruition, the possibility could exist for buildings to be converted to permanent housing on the 6-acre Harbor Place property, Pierce said. If adopted, the new density regulations would require 7,500 square feet for the first three units of a multi-family dwelling and 2,000 for each subsequent unit, allowing the opportunity for a 60-unit residence like the Harbor Place structure to exist if it met other regulations.

Jan Demers, Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, explained that the organization has a contract with the Vermont Department for Children and Families, providing services to assist the guests at Harbor Place but that CVOEO does not do referrals.

Demers said by email that she is pleased that increased communication is a priority for the neighbors, town administration and service providers. “Harbor Place is a wonderful, safe alternative to isolated hotels for short term transition housing with the goal for more rapid permanent housing solutions.”

To read the full article click here.

 



Colchester Receives $500K Grant For Affordable Housing

Posted May 5, 2015

Yesterday, Governor Peter Shumlin presented Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help keep the housing at Colchester’s Winchester Place affordable and updated. Below is a report from WCAX:

The State of Vermont is investing in affordable housing for Colchester.

Gov. Peter Shumlin presented the Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont with a half-million dollar grant Monday morning. The Community Development Block Grant will keep the 166 Winchester Place units affordable, pay for energy efficiency upgrades, and creation of a playground.

The Governor says the project is a smart investment. “Let’s make it more energy efficient. let’s take out the old doors and windows — fill them with insulation. Let’s modernize the units and let’s keep this affordable for jobs, for quality of life, and for the kids that are going to grow up here and have a great future,” Shumlin said.

“Partnership is how we get things done in Vermont and I’m pleased that we can help in this. It’s a win, win, win. It’s community development, it’s affordable housing, and it’s a good investment for the treasurer’s office,” said Treasurer Beth Pearce, D-Vermont.

The Governor says the project will provide work for 200 people. Town funds will pay for new LED lights for the neighborhood.

Additional coverage can be found here:
Affordable Housing Grant Also Puts Vermonters to Work (Local 22 (WVNY) & Local 44 (WFFF))
State Grant of $500,000 Will Make Affordable Housing More Energy Efficient (VermontBiz.com)

 



Governor Shumlin Announces $500,000 for Affordable Housing in Colchester

Posted May 4, 2015

Standing in the heart of a Colchester neighborhood, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced a $500,000 Vermont Community Development Program grant to lock in the affordability of eighty homes and make them more energy efficient. The apartments are part of Winchester Place, a mixed-income development of 166 apartments owned in partnership by the Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont. The long term affordability of the homes will secured through the purchase of the land which has been leased from St. Michael’s College.

“Keeping these apartments affordable is a priority for us, and it’s a Vermont-style, common-sense approach to preserve what we have,” said Gov. Shumlin. “We can invest in energy efficiency and extend the affordability of these apartments much cheaper than we could ever replace them. At the same time, this redevelopment will put Vermonters to work.”

Joining the Governor for the announcement was Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce, who said, “”Winchester Place is a great example of getting work done the Vermont way. Working together we can make real progress in accomplishing the affordable housing needs of Vermont. As a VHFA Board member I have seen firsthand the exceptional work of Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont.”

The grant was awarded to the Town of Colchester to help fund the work at the property, which will include air sealing, adding insulation, replacing leaky windows and obsolete appliances, and other energy efficiency upgrades; improved storm water management and other site work; and creation of a playground and improved basketball court for the nearly 150 children living at the property.

“Because of the support of the State of Vermont, the Town of Colchester and all of the numerous other partners and funders on this effort, the families at Winchester Place will be able to continue to call Colchester home,’” said Nadine Scibek, chair of the Colchester Selectboard. “It is so important for our community to keep this housing affordable.”

The redevelopment has also been assisted by the state with more than $1 million from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. These funds are leveraging other sources to complete the project including the HOME program, state and federal tax credits, and NeighborWorks America. The Town of Colchester is also contributing additional funding to install LED lighting on site, which will cut energy use in half. Lastly, the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Burlington made a contribution to help fund the playground.

“Not only will this project mean that we can preserve and improve affordable housing in a very tight rental market, but it also provides more than 200 jobs in the construction trades and related industries,” said Kathy Beyer, Housing Vermont’s Vice President of Development.

“Winchester Place is a critical piece of CHT’s affordable housing in Chittenden County, and we’re looking forward to its next chapter,” added Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “There’s such a need for housing in our region and across the state. Preserving Winchester ensures we’re not slipping backwards.”

The Vermont Community Development Program is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development using funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant Program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program helps Vermonters and their communities by developing affordable housing, creating jobs, public facilities and public services. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch play a key role by supporting the program in Washington, D.C.

 



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.

CHT

 



Affordable Housing Puts Many Businesses to Work

Posted April 16, 2015

Chris Donnelly, Director of Community Relations for the Champlain Housing Trust and VAHC Steering Committee member, writes about how affordable housing helps strengthen our economy for the Burlington Free Press:

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rob Naylor, president and co-founder of Naylor & Breen Builders, a Brandon-based construction company. He had come to the Vermont Statehouse to explain to lawmakers how important building affordable housing was to his business and his 80 employees — especially when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008.

His message? Don’t skimp on funding affordable housing.

The need for affordable housing is well documented: renters in Chittenden County are the most cost-burdened in New England, across the state there’s a 1 percent vacancy rate (a healthy market is 4-6 percent vacancy), and homelessness increased.

All of these are compelling reasons for the state and local communities to invest in affordable housing. But, as Mr. Naylor told legislators, there is another benefit that’s right before our eyes: the economy.

Construction companies like Naylor & Breen are perhaps most visibly affected by the housing industry, but many others are as well. Architects, lumber mills, lighting suppliers, heating and plumbing manufacturing and installation, and financial institutions, to name but a few, all are dependent on housing production. Indeed, the overall economy is affected, from the local on up to the national level. Both new construction and the rehabilitation of existing housing mean increased tax revenues for local and state government.

Moreover, thanks to an ongoing ripple effect, area businesses — grocery stores, bars and restaurants, auto repair shops and gas stations — along with public transportation providers will also be impacted directly.

How do we quantify this? According to the National Association of Home Builders, for every 10 apartments built, 12.2 construction-related jobs are created. After they are built, the people in them support another three jobs in the community.

One of my colleagues, Jim Lovinsky of the Lamoille Housing Partnership, counted the contractors who worked on the recently completed $5.5 million renovation of the former Arthur’s department store in Morrisville: 12 engineers, architects, attorneys, funders, and others were involved from the outset, some 30 contractors, engineers, laborers, and trucking and waste management personnel were responsible for environmental cleanup, and construction called for 50 or so carpenters, electricians, plumbers, HVAC contractors, painters, masons, and landscapers. Think of the impact these people had on the economic well-being of Morrisville while construction was underway.

At the Champlain Housing Trust, the largest of Vermont’s nonprofit housing organizations, we are stewards for property worth approximately $300 million — and with the exception of a small handful of properties that serve the most vulnerable, all of our properties pay taxes. In fact, a recent development in Shelburne illustrates this benefit. A property that previously contributed approximately $12,000 in taxes is now home to more than 80 homes and pays about $90,000 in property taxes.

The Housing Trust uses 750 vendors a year and generates $90 million worth of economic activity annually through our property management, development, lending, and other mission-driven activities. That’s robust for our economy,and important for the stability of people we serve.

The bottom line: affordable housing adds more than safe and secure housing for those who need it. Affordable housing contributes greatly to the economic well-being of our communities.

To view the full article, click here.

 



Job Opportunity: Leasing Property Manager at Champlain Housing Trust

Posted April 13, 2015

Join Champlain Housing Trust’s Property Management team in Burlington and serve the affordable housing needs of a diverse group of people. You will have the opportunity to work in a team environment while also setting your own daily priorities. You will be responsible for marketing vacant apartments, for all aspects of the operation of a portfolio of properties including tenant relations, rent collections, rent increases, lease enforcement and compliance with Federal, State and local programs. Qualified applicants must have excellent customer service skills, be organized with attention to detail, communicate effectively, and exercise sound judgment. Applicants must be committed to a membership-based model of community controlled and permanently affordable housing. Experience in residential property management, Section 8, LIHTC, HUD and HOME programs is recommended.

CHT is a socially responsible employer offering a competitive salary commensurate with experience. Our benefit package includes training, health insurance, vacation, holiday, sick leave, 403(b), disability and life insurance. Submit a cover letter and resume by April 23rd to Human Resources, Champlain Housing Trust, 88 King Street, Burlington, VT 05401 or email HR@champlainhousingtrust.org. No phone calls, please.

Equal Opportunity Employer – CHT is committed to a diverse workplace and highly encourages women, persons with disabilities, Section 3 residents, and people from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to apply.

CHT

 



My Bottom Line: Make Worker Housing a Priority

Posted March 19, 2015

Chris Donnelly, director of community relations for the Champlain Housing Trust and Vice Chair of the VAHC Steering Committee, wrote this piece for the Burlington Free Press on making affordable housing for the workforce a priority. Read more below or click here:

Housing — and affordable housing in particular — seems to be on everyone’s mind. Perhaps that’s because of the increase of development activity we’re seeing in Burlington and surrounding towns, or perhaps the public discussion on income inequality has made us think more about our personal budgets and spending.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin told me and others that access to affordable housing was among the chief concerns he hears from business owners. Let me tell you what I know about our workforce and its needs for affordable housing.

At first glance, Vermont’s employment numbers seem positive, with unemployment at its lowest statewide since 2005. But that doesn’t show the whole picture. It does not, for example, take into account part-time and temporary workers or the underemployed — those working of necessity below their skill level because they can’t find an appropriate job. The latest Census data show that Vermont’s median household income slipped 2.2 percent between 2012 and 2013, from $53,747 to $52,578, while the poverty rate rose 1.2 percent to 11.8 percent, with 74,058 Vermonters living in poverty.

The people at the bottom of the economic ladder are having the hardest time. I think most of us would agree programs that alleviate poverty and address chronic homelessness should be a priority for public resources. We witnessed a 9 percent increase in homelessness last year and an explosion of state spending on motels in recent years to provide emergency housing to make sure people don’t die from exposure.

But what about housing for working people? Is there a compelling interest in creating affordable housing for our workforce? More than half of the population who rents spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, the level deemed affordable. With income stagnation, this doesn’t seem sustainable. Let me give you a few real life examples.

Maleka Clarke lives in Burlington’s New North End. A single mom, she was homeless when her son was born. Aided by the stability of an affordable apartment, she put herself through school and is now a registered nurse . She can’t afford a market rent.

Ian Boyd works at Community College of Vermont. He’s in the generation that many fear are fleeing Vermont because of the high cost of living. With $35,000 in college debt, he wasn’t sure he could put down roots here because it was so expensive. Ian spent three years to reach his goal of buying a home, made possible because of his hard work and Champlain Housing Trust’s shared equity homeownership program.

Kristilynne Goodwin works two jobs and has raised her four boys in Colchester in an affordable CHT apartment. Her experience is common among the people in northwestern Vermont, where many jobs don’t pay enough to cover market rent. To afford the Fair Market Rent for a three-bedroom apartment for her and her kids, she’d need to earn about $31 an hour.

In Chittenden County affordability belies reality. Efficiency apartments are advertised for more than $1,200 a month, requiring an income of $50,000 or about $23 an hour. With a 1 percent vacancy rate, I am sure those apartments will be rented, just as I am sure that other landlords are paying attention to what the market will bear. This will price workers like Kristilynne and Maleka out of the market, and it makes it harder for people like Ian to buy a home .

There is an answer. Vermont has a strong network of nonprofit affordable housing organizations. State and local communities can invest in more opportunity for the workforce by partnering with this network. Beyond Burlington, communities like Hinesburg, South Burlington, Williston and others have started down this path by committing local resources and creating local policies to create housing for the workers who live there.

For these people, there’s no distinction between affordable and workforce housing.

 



Hinesburg Wins $675,000 Housing Grant

Posted March 18, 2015

Hinesburg is one of several communities that was recently awarded a Community Development Block Grant from the Vermont Community Development Program. Read how Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, and Snyder Homes plan on using these funds to build 23 new affordable housing units in this article from the Burlington Free Press:

Hinesburg recently was awarded a grant of $675,000 under the Vermont Community Development Program, for the purpose of helping to fund affordable housing in the Green Street project.

The grant, announced last week by Gov. Shumlin and Patricia Moulton, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, was the second largest among those awarded to 13 Vermont towns and cities, for a total of $4,287,000. The other grants, from $19,830 to $850,000, are expected to fund accessibility, disaster recovery and housing.

The Green Street development will be built south of the southwest corner of Vermont 116 and Charlotte Road, along a newly constructed road. It received approval from the town Development Review Board in October for 23 units in townhouse-style homes including two one-story accessible apartments.

A 2010 housing assessment for the Hinesburg Affordable Housing Committee reported a strong need for more rental access in Hinesburg for people earning less than 60 percent of the average median income.

Chris Snyder of Snyder Homes, builder of the project, said the company plans to start construction about May 15.

A sidewalk will connect the units with Vermont 116 for access to the community school and other amenities in the village.

About eight acres of open space west of the built area will be available for agricultural use and a 100-foot buffer for the LaPlatte River.

An earlier different application for the area had received water allocation from the town; the State of Vermont will issue a revised water permit, Snyder said. It would be in effect when the town’s new wells are online.

Community Development Program grants must go to municipalities, which then lend the funds to the prospective owners — in this case Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont.

Amy Demetrowitz of Champlain Housing Trust said, “We had a very good relationship with Snyder on a successful project in Williston. We are happy to partner with Snyder Homes on a turnkey project.”

For a link to the full article, click here.

 



100,000 Homes Update & Seven Days Article

Posted March 5, 2015

The organizers of the 100,000 Homes Campaign recently updated the community on some of the progress they have made since the registry event, which took place in October. Below are some of the current statistics as of February 2015. To read the entire progress report, click here.

100khomesupdatesummary

Seven Days has also published an article on the campaign that highlights some of the recent progress being made in this week’s issue, titled “Turning the Longtime Homeless Population Into Tenants.” Below is an excerpt:

Last October, dozens of volunteers wearing bright green shirts surveyed homeless people in Burlington. They were participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign — a national effort to identify and house the most vulnerable members of the homeless population. Despite the lofty name, organizers made a point to temper expectations: Volunteers were instructed to make it clear that participation in the survey did not guarantee housing.

That left an important question unanswered: Would anything come of it?

Richard North was sleeping near Cherry Street around dawn during one October morning when a volunteer showed up with a clipboard. The 55-year-old man has lived in Burlington his whole life — the last two decades of it on the streets, panhandling outside Rite Aid and camping in out-of-the-way corners of the city.

North answered 50 questions about his mental health, medical conditions, substance abuse and relationships. Known as the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, the survey assesses how likely it is that people will die on the streets. Of the 205 survey participants, North rated among the top 10.

On February 1, for the first time in his life, North moved into an apartment of his own.

It’s easy to see why he scored high. Some time ago, he lost a toe to frostbite. While living in an encampment off an Interstate 89 exit, he was hit by a motorcycle. He has struggled with alcoholism for years, and he also has a heart condition. “It wasn’t easy at times,” is how North summed up 20 years on the streets. A pair of massive boots and a Carhartt jumpsuit — which helped him survive the cold — lay in a pile on his living room floor. Now, instead of worrying about how to stay warm, North has another concern: when he’ll get cable TV.

The nonprofit Community Solutions started the 100,000 Homes Campaign four and a half years ago, and it has spread to approximately 200 communities across the U.S. It embraces the Housing First approach, which promotes housing people without prerequisites such as completing substance-abuse treatment programs. It also operates on the premise that it’s ultimately cheaper to give people housing than to leave them on the streets. The logic: Doing so cuts down on trips to emergency rooms, incarceration and other costs.

The campaign provides the blueprint, but local organizations do all the work — training volunteers, administering the survey, and then figuring out how to cut through red tape and find the money to line up housing for people. A big part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign credo is encouraging local groups to improve their coordination with one another.

It also gives communities a goal: house 2.5 percent of their most vulnerable homeless residents each month. So far, organizers in Burlington are meeting that target. In all, they’ve found apartments for 23 people. According to Chris Brzovic, the local coordinator for the campaign, the person in greatest need of housing moved into an apartment on March 1.

To read the article in full, click here.

 



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