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Governor Approves New VHFA Down Payment Assistance Program

Posted June 5, 2015

On Wednesday, Governor Shumlin signed a new bill that includes a down payment assistance program through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency for first-time home buyers. This bill was one of the VAHC’s legislative priorities, an effort that was successful at a time when the state faced many fiscal challenges. Below is VHFA’s press release on the event:

Governor Shumlin signed legislation today that will help Vermonters buying their first home through VHFA by providing up to $5,000 for qualified buyers to cover the costs typically faced at closing due to down payment and closing costs.

The new down payment assistance program is part of a larger economic development bill, passed by the Vermont Legislature in the final days of the session. The program will be available through VHFA’s network of participating lenders late this summer.

“Businesses across Vermont have told us that housing costs are unaffordable and they need more tools to help attract and retain workers, especially young professionals,” explained Executive Director Sarah Carpenter. “In addition to helping Vermonters achieve their home purchase goals, a down payment assistance program for Vermont will help spur real estate market activity statewide.”

The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce supported this legislation. “Saving up enough of a down payment can be a real barrier for first time buyers and we are hopeful that this program can help support our state’s workforce,” said Katie Taylor, LCRCC’s Government Affairs Specialist.

The program’s success will draw largely on VHFA’s unique, dual role serving Vermont home buyers and overseeing the state’s housing tax credit program. By selling $125,000 in Vermont State Housing Credits each year, VHFA expects to generate enough funding to provide down payment assistance to approximately 100 first-time home buyers each year for the next three years. Eventually when these homeowners sell their homes or refinance their mortgages, they will be required to repay their down payment assistance with 0% interest, creating a loan fund to be used for down payment assistance to more home buyers.

This program was authorized by S.138, An act relating to promoting economic development. The bill received overwhelming support by both the House and Senate, and was signed into law by the Governor at a signing ceremony today at Cabot Hosiery in Northfield. VHFA is currently working to create this program and expects it will be available to buyers by the end of this summer. Program information will be posted on VHFA’s website ( and a formal announcement will be made once the program is launched.


To view the Governor’s press release, click here. To read the Times Argus coverage of the event click here.


Latest Budget Cut Could Harm Affordable Housing Sector

Posted May 7, 2015

This week. VPR spoke with several affordable housing advocates about Governor Shumlin’s new proposed plans for cutting the state’s budget and how they may cause damage to the affordable housing sector, including VAHC coordinator Erhard Mahnke:

“The way this has been presented by the administration is that this is a cut that will really only affect middle-income people, and they have other places they can go to get energy efficiency funds to make improvement to their homes,” says Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “And nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mahnke says the weatherization funds often provide a critical piece of financing for rehabilitation of old affordable housing stock, as well as the construction of new units.

“When you’re taking these monies … away from the Vermont Fuel Efficiency Partnership, you’re removing one of the key sources that helps to stabilize housing costs over the future, for both the nonprofit operator and the low-income residents that benefit from it,” Mahnke says.

Mahnke says the program funds improvements for as many as 500 units a year. He says the heating costs that are saved are vital to the residents, half of whom report average annual incomes of $17,000. Take away the weatherization money, and Mahnke says the state will stall production of needed affordable housing capacity.

“And we need more affordable housing,” Mahnke says. “This is death by a thousand cuts. And it’s going to make it that much more difficult for us to make headway in the battle against homelessness.”

For the full article, including audio, 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 (


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.


Gov. Shumlin Signs Two Housing Protection Bills into Law

Posted April 17, 2015

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.


On April 16, 2015, Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin Proclaims April as Fair Housing Month in Vermont

Posted April 13, 2015

On April 16, 2015, Governor Peter Shumlin will proclaim April as Fair Housng Month in Vermont. The official signing of the Proclamation will take place in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office in the Vermont State House at 10:00AM. All are welcome to attend. For more information contact



Gov. Shumlin Announces Strategy to End Family Homelessness by 2020

Posted March 31, 2015

With over 1,500 Vermonters without housing on any given night and families with children now making up half of all people in emergency shelters, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen today announced a statewide strategy for ending child and family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. The Governor and Secretary made the announcement while celebrating a grant of more than a half-million dollars to rehabilitate and increase the number affordable housing units in Chittenden County, helping to relieve a shortage that affects all of those who face homelessness.

“Even with serious budget challenges, we are fortunate in Vermont to have many of the programs and partnerships already in place to support an ambitious initiative,” Gov. Shumlin said. “We can build on these foundations to achieve the goal of ending childhood and family homelessness by 2020.”

The administration’s initiative adopts the national strategy supported by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and others. Vermont’s plan will bring together programs operated by the Agency of Human Services, federal programs providing housing and shelter assistance, and local organizations that provide shelter, housing and services to Vermonters who are homeless or at-risk. The full three-part plan to attack homelessness includes:

  1. Adopting the national “Family Connection” framework, developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, to ensure that local communities have a coordinated system for assessing families’ housing needs and connecting them to the appropriate benefits, employment, and evidence-based intervention the first time.
  2. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.
  3. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.

During this announcement, Gov. Shumlin also presented a $580,000 grant for the construction and rehabilitation of fourteen new affordable apartments and a day station for the homeless at 95 North Avenue in Burlington. The project is being developed by the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) and Housing Vermont. To read the full press release, click here. For more information on the full, three-part plan, click here.

For further media coverage, see the links below:
Shumlin: End Family Homelessness by 2020 (Burlington Free Press)
Shumlin Announces Plan to End Family, ChildHood Homelessness By 2020 (VT Digger)
Grant Bolsters COTS’ North Avenue Plans (Seven Days)
Governor’s New Plan to End Family Homelessness (WPTZ)
State Goal: End Homelessness in VT by 2020 (Rutland Herald)
VT Agencies Commit to End Family Homelessness in 5 Years (
Shumlin Unveils Homelessness Strategy (WCAX)


Shumlin Signs Reach Up Bill Into Law

Posted June 18, 2014

Earlier today at a ceremony in Winooski Governor Peter Shumlin signed H.790, An Act Relating to Reach Up, Reach Ahead and the Enhanced Child Care Services Subsidy Program, into law.

The new policy measures are designed to soften the so‐called ‘benefits cliff’ for welfare recipients. As originally envisioned, the legislation would have allowed working Reach Up participants to earn and save more before benefits were reduced. The compromise that ultimately passed allows working participants to disregard an additional $50 earned each month before benefits are calculated and correspondingly reduced. In addition, it softens the off‐ramp from the program by:

• preserving eligibility for child care subsidies for an additional year for people leaving Reach Up through expansion of the Reach Ahead program (increased to 24 months from 12). Here are the details:

• Extends childcare benefit (100% subsidy) for a full second year for Reach Ahead participants

• Uses caseload savings to pay for childcare benefit; if there’s enough funding, the DCF and Finance Commissioners can jointly decide to extend the benefit beyond 24 months

• Increases the earned income disregard (EID) from $200 to $250 (percentage of remaining unsubsidized income remains the same at 25%; original proposal was to increase EID to $300 plus 50% of remaining income)

• Reduces 1st six months of Reach Ahead’s TANF‐funded food assistance from $100 to $50 a month to pay for part of the increased EID; keeps 2nd six months of Reach Ahead food benefit at $50

• Provides a nominal $5 per month food benefit for 2nd year Reach Ahead participants

• Food benefits for families in their first six months of Reach Ahead are grandfathered at $100 for the first six months and $50 for months 7 through 12

• Case managers are to meet with participating families to make them aware of program benefit changes and advise them on how to maximize new opportunities without a corresponding loss of benefits.

• DCF is to explore feasibility of transitional food benefit program that would allow drawing additional federal funds to offset food assistance during the first five months of Reach Ahead, freeing up State dollars to increase the EID; report due to the Health Care Oversight Committee by October 15.

• DCF also to report to the committee on the estimated cost of the EID and child care subsidies and projected caseload reduction savings.

• NO increase to the asset limit, which was originally proposed to increase from $2,000 to $5,000 (BUT: the cost of increasing the asset limit is modest and could easily be brought back next year, paid for through use of the additional federal $$ from the transitional food benefit program).

• NO across the board reduction in benefits (originally estimated to be $19 per household to pay for EID)

• Additional childcare subsidy and EID do not take effect until July 1, 2015; childcare subsidy only takes effect if there are sufficient savings from caseload reduction to pay for it

On Monday’s broadcast of Equal Time Radio on WDEV 96.1 FM/550 AMAmy Shollenberger spoke with Chris Curtis, Staff Attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, and Erhard Mahnke, Coordinator for VAHC, about the bill, and a variety of issues related to combating poverty, including the Reach-Up Program and affordable housing in Vermont.

Listen to the full broadcast here.


Tomorrow: Public Budget Forum with Governor’s Administration

Posted October 22, 2013

Governor Peter Shumlin’s administration has scheduled two forums where the public can discuss the Vermont state budget.  The first will be held tomorrow. The Brattleboro Reformer has more:

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration has scheduled two forums where the public can discuss the Vermont state budget for the fiscal year beginning next July 1.

Each fall, the governor’s administration prepares a budget to be presented to lawmakers in January. In 2012, lawmakers passed a bill calling for forums during the fall so budget writers can hear from the public.

They’ll be carried via Vermont Interactive Technologies on Oct. 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and on Nov. 5 from 2:50 to 4:45 p.m.

The public can participate in the first forum by going to VIT studios in Brattleboro, Johnson, Lyndonville, Middlebury, White River Junction, Williston and Montpelier.

The second will be from studios in Bennington, Brattleboro, Johnson, Lyndonville, Middlebury, Rutland, Springfield, St. Albans, White River Junction, Montpelier and Newport.

If you can’t make the Forum tomorrow, be sure to offer your input on November 5.


Green Street Open House with Governor Shumlin: October 10 at 4:30 PM

Posted September 17, 2013

Join the friends of the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes as they celebrate the new Green Street Transitional Project by hosting an open house with Governor Peter Shumlin on October 10th at 4:30 PM:



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