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Finding Housing Is a Headache In Vermont

Posted October 20, 2014

Chris Donnelly, director of community relations at the Champlain Housing Trust, recently spoke with the Burlington Free Press about many of the housing issues we face here in Vermont. Below is an excerpt from the article published today:

BURLINGTON FREE PRESS: How would you describe the housing options in Vermont? Can people find the housing they need where they want or need to live at prices they can afford?

CHRIS DONNELLY: Housing options vary from region to region, but in general, wages in Vermont have not kept pace with the cost of housing. Looking statewide, the housing wage – which is the amount a renter earns to make a two bedroom, fair market rent affordable — is $19.36 per hour.

There isn’t enough housing for low income households, period. The rental vacancy rate in Burlington is about 1 percent; in Bennington, it’s 2 percent. A healthy market has 5 percent vacancy.

For those seeking to buy, lower interest rates have helped, but Vermont didn’t see a plummet in home prices like the rest of the country. To afford the statewide median-priced home of $200,000, you’d need to save $16,700 for down payment and closing costs, and earn about $59,000. Over half of Vermont households don’t earn that much.

BFP: How does Vermont’s housing situation compare to the housing picture in neighboring states?

CD: The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston studied how renters are doing in New England and found that Chittenden County had the highest percentage of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent, with the exception of two counties on Cape Cod which has little rental housing. More than half of renters in five of Vermont’s 14 counties are similarly cost-burdened. This phenomenon is not isolated to Vermont, as we’re seeing Governors Patrick (MA) and Malloy (CT), and Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City launch ambitious campaigns to address the issue.

To read the full article click here.


Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps


A new paper was released this week highlighting the link between housing and homelessness. Housing and Homelessness: Opening Doors, Closing Gaps, is the fourth in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. While the connection between housing and homelessness is rather clear, there is much more to the issue of homelessness than what may be openly visible.

From the paper:

In Vermont, it’s just as often entire families—parents and young children—who don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go at night, forced onto the streets by inflated rents, bad credit, underemployment, or, like Laurie T., having to make the impossible choice between a roof over their heads or food in their bellies. The mother of an 8‐year‐old and a 13‐year‐old, Laurie lost her apartment when hours were cut at her minimum‐wage job. Leaving the kids with her mother, she and her boyfriend, who was unemployed, used their car as housing. The four eventually found themselves at the Upper Valley Haven, a White River Junction shelter and facility.

Sara Kobylenski, executive director of the Haven and co‐chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, says their two shelters—with the capacity to house eight families and 20 adults—are routinely full. Last winter, the staff even had to set up cots in the shelters’ public spaces to accommodate the overflow. Shelters aren’t the only answer, of course, but some families are housed in emergency motels that have been found rundown, filthy, and roach‐infested, with rooms that have so much mold, anyone staying there risks health issues.

Nationwide, five factors are responsible for homelessness: (1) lack of affordable housing; (2) gap between earned income and the cost of available housing; (3) health costs; (4) natural disasters; and (5) relationship problems—in particular, domestic violence. While the latter three are largely circumstantial, the former two are not. 

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.


Housing and the Workforce: A Place to Hang One’s Hat

Posted October 6, 2014

A new paper was released this week highlighting the link between affordable housing and other public policy priorities. Housing and the Workforce: A Place to Hang One’s Hat, is the third in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. Housing is a key issue that affects many workers in Vermont.

From the paper:

“It has an impact when people are worried about where they’re going to live,” says Lisa Falcone, Working Bridges project director, “and that’s a big issue for a lot of workers in Vermont.” Managed by the United Way of Chittenden County, Working Bridges is an employer collaborative focused on workplace productivity, retention, advancement, and financial stability for employees. Falcone says she’s spoken with the human resources director at one area company that pays a generous entry-level wage but has a perpetually open, technically skilled position. The HR director has told Falcone that she can’t find anyone to take the job because prospective employees are deterred by the cost of living in general and of housing in particular.

It’s an issue that’s felt by companies and their employees statewide, and at multiple income and skill levels. Heather Banks, former senior director of human resources at UTC Aerospace (formerly Goodrich), the Vergennes-based manufacturer that employs 850, found it difficult to hire mid-level professionals from out of state because many were unable to find rental housing, whether for 30 days or a year. Banks says it was equally challenging to lure semi-skilled technical workers down from the Northeast Kingdom and elsewhere, for essentially the same reasons.

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.


Housing and Health: The Importance of Place

Posted September 17, 2014

A new paper was released this week highlighting the link between affordable housing and good health. Housing and Health: The Importance of Place, is the second in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. At every age, a safe and secure home is crucial to staying healthy.

From the paper:

“We know that a well-housed person is healthier than a person who’s in bad housing with mold or is homeless,” says Community Health Improvement Director Penrose Jackson. Children, in particular, suffer cognitive impairments, asthma, mental health disorders, and diabetes and other chronic diseases as a result of living in sub-standard housing that might be riddled with mice, lead paint, mold, or chronic dampness issues. In a paper for the series “How Housing Matters to Families and Communities” from the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., and Deborah Frank, M.D., observe just how intertwined health and housing are, especially for developing children.

“For many of our patients, a safe, decent, affordable home is like a vaccine—it literally keeps children healthy,” they say, noting their own findings proving the issues start even before birth: women who are homeless while pregnant are 50 percent more likely to have a low–birthweight baby and more than 30 percent more likely to have a preterm delivery than women who were not homeless while pregnant.

And for those who do have housing, if paying for rent or a mortgage demands a disproportionate percentage of their income, they will subsequently have less money to spend on other essentials, such as food and medicine.

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.


Harrington Village and Wright House Grand Opening Celebration

Posted September 11, 2014

On Wednesday a large crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of Harrington Village and the Wright House in Shelburne, Vermont. Three local nonprofit housing development groups – Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, and Cathedral Square, came together to build this mixed-income, mixed-generation neighborhood consisting of 78 new homes. In addition, Champlain Housing Trust and Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity are working together to build four affordable homes on the property. As of now there are 42 family apartments in Harrington Village and 36 senior apartments in Wright House. The Wright House also offers SASH (Supportive Services at Home) at no additional cost to residents.


Photo credit: Jon Shenton/Champlain Housing Trust

Governor Peter Shumlin, who was present to speak to the crowd and celebrate the efforts of everyone involved, made this statement in yesterday’s press release:

“After many years of planning and persistence, this new neighborhood in the heart of Shelburne is now a reality. Harrington Village, including Wright House, brings together homes for all ages and a variety of income levels. Surrounded by open land but in the center of the village, it is providing both affordable housing and a good quality of life for residents.”

While there is great need for more safe and affordable housing across the state of Vermont, it is in particularly high demand for Chittenden County where vacancy rates are currently less than one percent. In their coverage of the event, this New England Cable News article mentions some of these issues facing Chittenden County and the fact that while many are already benefiting from this new housing, there is also a long waiting list of people looking to live in both Harrington Village and Wright House.

For further coverage of the event, click here and here. You can also view the video coverage from WCAX in the embedded video below:


Housing and Education: Putting the Pieces Together

Posted September 3, 2014

A new paper was released today highlighting the impact that affordable housing can have on a child’s education. Housing and Education: Putting the Pieces Together, is the first in a series of papers that is designed to demonstrate the value of affordable housing for people and communities across the State of Vermont. One key to a child’s success and ability to learn in the classroom is having an affordable home.

From the paper:

The effects on children’s learning can be both short- and long-term. There are the daily struggles with feeling tired, hungry, distracted, and resentful. And over the course of a student’s time in elementary and secondary school—if he or she sticks around that long, since such students are 60%
more likely to drop out of high school—effects include weaker social networks, less involvement in extracurricular activities, and lower-than-average test scores.

Vermont’s NECAP results underscore the latter point: the state’s low-income students scored anywhere from 14% to 29% lower in their tests across age groups in the 2012–2013 school year.

Encouragingly, however, a Johns Hopkins University study released in June 2014 confirmed that when families spend 30% of their income on housing—the target for what is considered affordable—children’s cognitive abilities improve. When that percentage rises or drops, it suffers. That’s brought about in part by the kinds of environments they’re forced to live in, but also because those families don’t have the resources to provide the books, computers, and educational outings that can determine success in a child’s academic career. That lack often further alienates students who are struggling to fit in. An affordable home, for these kids and their future, could make all the difference.

“Sometimes those kids experiencing housing challenges feel disconnected from their communities,” says Champlain Elementary’s Haslam, “which is even more damaging to their ability to access the academics, because socially and emotionally they’re just not ready.”

To read the full paper click here (PDF file).

For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust by calling (802) 861-7305 or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont at (802) 863-8284.


Champlain Housing Trust is Seeking Two Americorps Members for September

Posted August 25, 2014

VAHC member Champlain Housing Trust is seeking two AmeriCorps members to help provide affordable homeownership and financial education in Northwestern Vermont.  Don’t miss this opportunity to work with one of the state’s premier housing organizations and gain valuable, real-world experience.  Make a difference in your community as a vital part of CHT’s team.  This would be a perfect opportunity for a recent graduate to get a foot in the door or for a retiree to share their knowledge and give back.  Positions start in September and include a stipend, help paying off student debt, extensive training, health benefits, and more.  For more information and details on how to apply click here.  If you have an questions please call or email Barbara Geries at 802-861-7333 or

CHTlogo ac_logo



Grand Opening Celebration – Harrington Village and Wright House

Posted August 19, 2014

Join Cathedral Square, Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, and special guest Governor Peter Shumlin to celebrate the opening of new housing in Shelburne’s village.

When: Wednesday, Spetember 10th, 2014 at 10:00AM

Where: Harrington Avenue, Shelburne

Parking available at Trinity Episcopal Church, just off of Route 7 south of the development.

Please RSVP at:

Harrington Village Invite


Welch Highlights LIHTC Legislation at Bobbin Mill Apartments in Burlington

Posted June 22, 2014

In case you missed, last week CCTV aired a press conference with Congressman Peter Welch at the Bobbin Mill Apartments with Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Ken Sassarossi of Housing Vermont, Sarah Carpenter of VHFA, and Brenda Torpy of CHT.

Welch was at Bobbin Mill to highlight his legislation (H.R. 4717) to improve the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and stimulate the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing in Vermont.  Watch the broadcast online here or below:


Sarah Carpenter Receives Champlain Housing Trust’s McKenzie Award

Posted February 7, 2014

Re-posted from Leslie Black-Plumeau of VHFA’s Housing Matters Blog:

VHFA’s Executive Director, Sarah Carpenter, received the Tim McKenzie Award at Champlain Housing Trust’s annual meeting and dinner…   The award recognized Carpenter’s outstanding contributions to permanently affordable housing during the past thirty years.  Carpenter is a long-time Burlington resident.

“I am honored to work with partner organizations like Champlain Housing Trust to extend affordable housing options to Vermonters not served by conventional markets,” said Carpenter, who has been VHFA’s executive director since 1998.

Champlain Housing Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, Brenda Torpy, presented the award.  Torpy explained that Sarah was one of the housing trust’s original Board members thirty years ago.  “Her driving vision about the role perpetually affordable housing plays in our economy has had wide reaching impacts,” Torpy commented.   Champlain Housing Trust is a community land trust that supports communities in northwest Vermont through the development and stewardship of permanently affordable homes and community assets.

According to Tom Pelletier, Chairperson of VHFA’s Board of Directors, “Sarah’s keen understanding of housing markets and devotion to making housing more affordable for low and moderate-income Vermonters has made her a highly effective leader.”

Before joining VHFA, Carpenter was the Executive Director of Burlington’s Cathedral Square Corporation—an organization nationally recognized for combining affordable housing and community services.   Born in Burlington, Carpenter is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Harvard University.


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