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VAHC TV: Voices of Home

Posted August 11, 2016

Host Ted Wimpey talks with Corinne Yonce, VISTA Resident Organizer, about the Voices of Home project. To watch the program, view the embedded link below or click here. You can also view the program on-air on Tuesday August 16 and 23 at 4pm on Channel 17/Town Meeting TV.

 



Brattleboro Housing Authority Receives Federal Funding to Help People Be More Independent

Posted July 21, 2016

The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the Brattleboro Housing Authority was one of three Vermont housing authorities to receive grants through the HUD Family Self-Sufficiency Program. These grants allow residents to receive assistance in achieving goals that lead to self-sufficiency. Below is an excerpt from the article:

A federal program is aiming to make a difference by propelling people towards a better future.

The Brattleboro Housing Authority was one of three housing authorities in Vermont to receive grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Residents in public housing and Section 8 programming are eligible to receive assistance in finding jobs or returning to school in order to reach certain goals.

“It’s really oriented around work and getting the tools necessary to get work in the field that they’re interested in,” said BHA Executive Director Christine Hart. “One of the most important parts of the program is that in public housing and Section 8, when your income goes up, your rents goes up. So there’s an unfortunate built-in disincentive to work because your rent goes up.”

Through the program, that increase in rent instead goes into an escrow account until the participant reaches their goals. Then they have access to the money.

According to Hart, the BHA has a minimum of 75 participants in the program at any given time. So far, three families have left the program and purchased homes with the money they had saved.

“Right now, we have residents that have escrow balances from a low of $9 — so somebody who just started — to $10,000,” said Hart. “And we have five current participants with balances over $1,000.”

So it’s no wonder why Hart says her organization is “very pleased to be refunded” for the fifth year in a row. The grants are awarded on an annual basis.

“I think that speaks well of our program and that should be an incentive for people to apply,” said Hart. “It can be a huge help to a family or anybody.”

To continue reading the article, click here.

 



Affordable Housing Complex In Lyndonville Gets a Makeover

Posted July 18, 2016

WCAX reports on the redevelopment of Darling Inn in Lyndonville, VT:

Lyndonville’s Darling Inn officially reopened Saturday after a year long project aimed to improve the historic building.

Willie Mitchem lives at the Darling Inn in Lyndonville, an affordable apartment complex that he says stands out from places he’s lived before.

“The staff loves me. I go over there, pay my rent, and they say, ‘thank you Mr. Mitchem.’ I say, ‘You’re welcome ladies!’ I’m a flirt,” said resident Willie Mitchem.

But he says the building needed a few upgrades. On Saturday, officials and residents celebrated the reopening of the Darling Inn after a year long redevelopment project.

“It’s beautiful. My bedroom’s big. My living room’s medium. My kitchen: I love it. The cupboards are down where I can reach them. Excellent,” Mitchem said.

The Inn was originally built in the 1920s as a hotel, but it now consists of 28 affordable housing units for elderly and disabled citizens. Officials say they hoped to both improve and restore the historic building.

The total project cost more than $5 million and was funded with help from 1.3 million dollar loan from USDA Rural Development. The changes included making the building more energy efficient, and making apartments more accessible.

“Roll in showers and grab bars. Improving the kitchens, making sure that they’re very accessible, and then in terms of the heating system, we upgraded the old oil system to a wood pellet furnace,” said Trisha Ingalls, RuralEdge CEO.

To continue reading the article, click here.

 



Senate Passes, Obama To Sign Key Housing Reforms Backed By Leahy

Posted

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, July 15, 2016) – Before leaving for the summer recess, the U.S. Senate Thursday night approved legislation championed by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D) to make needed and long overdue reforms to several federal housing programs. The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives in February, and the bill cleared the Senate Thursday night without opposition. Leahy is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill. In May he wrote to the leaders of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, urging them to lead the committee’s consideration of this legislation and to advance it to the full Senate for a vote.

Leahy, a longtime champion of affordable housing, said: “It is not often that such significant legislation receives such overwhelming support in Congress. After having heard from affordable housing advocates from throughout Vermont and New England, I was proud to cosponsor the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act.”

Leahy continued, “There is no doubt of the impact that federal rental assistance programs have in rural states like ours, and these are commonsense reforms to key housing programs that Congress has not reassessed in nearly two decades. Increasing opportunities for extremely low-income families and families experiencing hardship should be a priority in every community, and at every level of government. I am encouraged to see this level of support for affordable housing initiatives and hardworking advocates throughout our country, and I am pleased this legislation will be signed into law.”

The new law will make several reforms to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, and particularly to the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8. The legislation addresses many priorities of the nation’s affordable housing community, including a more streamlined system for administering federally assisted housing programs. These steps will cut costs and allow providers to meet the needs of a more low-income families seeking assistance. The law will also allow housing agencies to use project-based vouchers for individuals and families who may be homeless, encouraging greater income growth and economic mobility among assisted families. The law also will support communities that seek to make needed repairs to aging public housing stock to improve the quality of life for current and future residents.

Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the Senate has overcome partisan differences to pass this common sense bill.” He added: “These reforms provide Vermont new tools to reduce homelessness, preserve affordable housing, and increase self-sufficiency for low-income Vermonters. Our deepest thanks go to Senator Leahy for his leadership in helping to make this happen!”

The bill now set to become law was strongly supported by the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and the Vermont State Housing Authority. It is also endorsed by a broad coalition of national organizations, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Housing Assistance Council, the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Organizations, the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, and the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also strongly supports the legislation, as does the National Association of Realtors.

For a link to this press release, click here.

 



Coalition Launched to Increase Housing – Building Homes Together

Posted June 27, 2016

South Burlington, VT – Dozens of Chittenden County leaders in the fields of housing, business, local and state government, and social services announced this morning a new campaign to increase the production of housing and setting a target of 3,500 new homes created in the next five years.

The new coalition, called Building Homes Together, was formed by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont and released an initial list of nearly 100 community leaders supporting the effort.

“Working together we will accomplish this goal,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. “For the sake of our communities, our workers and local economy, we will educate and advocate together for more housing.”

“The housing shortage in Chittenden County has been well noted with unhealthy vacancy rates and high rents,” added Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. “Employers can’t find workers, and workers themselves spend more time in commutes and with a higher percentage of their paychecks on housing costs.”

Twenty percent of the 3,500 goal are targeted to be developed by nonprofit housing organizations. The remainder by private developers.

“This step-up in production will not just provide new homes and infrastructure for communities, it’ll be a boost to the economy and contribute to the tax base. Building homes together is a big win for all of us in Chittenden County,” said Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont.

The campaign will provide up-to-date data to the community on the need for and benefits of new housing, build cross-sector and public support for housing development, increasing access to capital, and supporting municipalities.

Individuals, businesses or organizations that wish to sign on and participate in the campaign are encouraged to by sending an email to Chris Donnelly at Champlain Housing Trust (chris@champlainhousingtrust.org). For more information, visit www.getahome.org/news/building-homes-together.

 



Vermont’s Rental Housing Affordability Gap Continues to Grow

Posted June 13, 2016

BURLINGTON, VT – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Vermont, renters need to earn $21.13 an hour, or $43,947 a year. This is Vermont’s 2016 Housing Wage, revealed in the annual Out of Reach report released late last month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and today by the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.

The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to be able to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest home in the private housing market (affordable means paying no more than 30% of income).  Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the country.

The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.  With an estimated mean renter wage of $11.79 an hour, average Vermont renters are left $9.34 an hour short of what they need to earn to afford a decent place to live.  They can afford just $613 a month for rent and utilities while the average statewide Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,099.  Vermont has nearly 75,000 renter households.

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“This report shows exactly how hard it is for ordinary working Vermonters, for seniors, for people with disabilities and others living on fixed incomes to afford safe, stable housing,” said Erhard Mahnke, the Affordable Housing Coalition’s Coordinator.  “Vermonters have to earn more than twice the minimum wage for something that should be considered a basic human right, leaving them with little left over for other basic needs and just a step away from homelessness.”

Even though Vermont’s minimum wage has increased annually for the last several years year, it is not enough to pay for decent housing:  2.2 full-time jobs at minimum wage – or 88 work hours a week — are needed to afford the average two-bedroom apartment.  A full-time minimum wage worker in Vermont can only afford $499 a month for rent and utilities, leaving a gap of $600.

While some might consider this is an unfair comparison because they think most minimum wage workers are high school students, this is not the reality.  According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a minimum wage worker is 35 years old, and 88% are at least 20 years old.  Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

“Our chronic housing shortage and affordability gap make it harder for low-income and vulnerable Vermonters to find and retain housing,” said Ted Wimpey, Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s statewide Fair Housing Program and Chairperson of the Affordable Housing Coalition.  “To make true and lasting headway against this shortage and towards the goal of ending homelessness, we need significant new state and federal investments in affordable housing, coupled with rental assistance for the lowest income families, and supportive services for those with the greatest challenges.”

Unfortunately, federal funding levels for housing, rental assistance and supportive services are far below what they were five or six years ago.  The state of Vermont suffers from chronic budget shortfalls, preventing it from making the needed investments.  Key federal programs like HOME and Community Development Block Grants have been underfunded for years.  Congress still has not seen fit to restore all the rental assistance vouchers lost through sequestration.   The State has shortchanged the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, our primary tool for increasing the state’s affordable housing portfolio, for years.  It has been unable to make the necessary increases to such key housing safety net programs as the Vermont Rental Subsidy Program, which helps close the gap between what low-income Vermonters can afford and what’s available on the market.

Additional findings from Out of Reach:

  • The national Housing Wage is $20.30 in 2016.
  • Vermont is the state with the sixth largest shortfall between the two-bedroom housing wage and the renter wage.
  • Vermont is the seventh most expensive state for rural (non-metro) areas.
  • Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation for renters.
  • The Housing Wage in the greater metropolitan area of Burlington is $26.08, almost $5.00 an hour higher than the state average.
  • The one-bedroom Housing Wage is $16.58 an hour ($34,479 a year), requiring 69 work hours a week at minimum wage to afford the monthly rent of $862.
  • Someone with a disability living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can only afford $236 a month, leaving them $863 short for a two-bedroom, and $626 short for a one-bedroom apartment.

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For additional information, visit: www.nlihc.org/oor/.

For a link to the full press release and supplemental materials, click here.

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The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition is a statewide membership organization dedicated to ensuring that all Vermonters have decent, safe and affordable housing, particularly the state’s low and moderate-income residents, elders, people living with homelessness, and people with disabilities. For more information on the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, visit
www.vtaffordablehousing.org
.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. For more information on the National Low Income Housing Coalition, visit www.nlihc.org

 



VAHC TV: Wrap-up of the State Legislative Session

Posted June 6, 2016

Erhard Mahnke speaks to Karen Lafayette, Advocate for the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council on what the Legislature did affecting housing, homelessness and poverty issues. To watch the program, view the embedded link below or click here. You can also view the program on-air on Monday June 6, 13, or 20 at 2pm on Channel 17/Town Meeting TV.

 



Resident-owners of Westgate Approve New Partnership

Posted May 20, 2016

The tenant-led non-profit Westgate Housing in Brattleboro recently approved creating a new partnership with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. Below is an article from The Commons with more on this story:

At their annual meeting, residents of the Westgate housing community unanimously approved creating a new partnership with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.

The new partnership will be between the tenant-led nonprofit Westgate Housing Inc. (WHI) that owns and manages the property and the Housing Trust.

Westgate will remain a tenant-owned property, said Westgate board President and resident Julie Maloof.

The Housing Trust isn’t taking over ownership or management of the property. Instead, the organization is stepping in as a partner to the residents to provide guidance and oversee large financial projects such as future rehabilitation of the property, Maloof and Community Director Jon Hoover said.

Maloof said the Trust takes the place of longterm partner Housing Vermont of Burlington.

Housing Vermont helped Westgate tenants purchase the housing community from private investors in 2000. According to materials from the Westgate board, Housing Vermont always intended to turn its portion of the Westgate partnership over to another organization.

Windham & Windsor Housing Trust seemed the natural choice since it already owned the land Westgate sits on and has provided helpful guidance over the years, Maloof and Hoover said.

To continue reading the full article, click here.

 



Ceremony Launches Vermont’s First, Multi-Family Passive House Building

Posted May 6, 2016

Milton, VT—State and local officials, and leaders from finance and nonprofit housing organizations, marked the construction start of an innovative, affordable housing community for seniors at a groundbreaking ceremony on May 2nd.

Elm Place is located at 60 Bombardier Road in Milton and will be Vermont’s first multi-family building certified to Passive House standards. The super energy-efficient building will use roughly 65% less energy than those built to today’s standard codes. This efficiency is achieved through better windows and doors, added insulation, and improved air sealing.

Elm Place, developed by Cathedral Square, is expected to open in March, 2017, and will provide thirty, affordable, one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors. Amenities are to include covered parking, laundry facilities, on-site storage, exercise room, and more. Rent will include heat, air conditioning, hot water, laundry and electricity. Support And Services at Home (SASH) will be offered to residents at no cost. SASH is a care coordination program which gives residents access to the care they need to stay healthy while living comfortably and safely at home.

Kim Fitzgerald, Cathedral Square’s CEO, said, “the Passive House focus on sustainability and human comfort aligns well with our vision for affordable senior housing. It’s very exciting to reduce our carbon footprint while increasing comfort and quality of life.”

Liz Gamache, Director of Efficiency Vermont, said, “So, as Elm Place is indeed a project that will provide a viable, healthy and affordable place for seniors to live for years to come, and benefits that go beyond the four walls, we see the reduction of economic and environmental burdens — not just for the residents, but their families and also future generations.”

Elm Place development costs were funded by sources including Vermont Housing Finance Agency, People’s United Bank, the Vermont Community Development Program, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the HOME Investment Partnership, The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Efficiency Vermont, the TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, Commons Energy, Enterprise Community Partners, The Housing Assistance Council, Vermont Gas, and in-kind support provided by the Town of Milton.

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To read more about Elm Place, click here.

 



New Affordable Energy Efficient Housing Coming to Addison County

Posted

Addison County Community Trust and Cathedral Square are helping to turn what was a blighted mobile home park into a net zero energy rental community that will provide new affordable and environmentally friendly housing options for local residents. Below is coverage of this story from MyChamplainValley.com:

Vermonters are facing a shortage when it comes to affordable housing.

Leaving some families with limited living options.

But soon, new affordable housing is coming to Addison County, and it’s also environmentally friendly.

Today was demolition day of the old Gevry Mobile Home Park in Waltham, making way for the new McKnight Lane neighborhood.

A once forgotten neighborhood outside the city of Vergennes has been empty for six years.

And on Wednesday the Gevry Mobile Home Park began its new life.

Katie Forleo of Cathedral Square says: “Cathedral Square and ACCT… are collaborating to redevelop this mobile home park.”

Forleo works for the non-profit Cathedral Square and says this project is in phase one, and fourteen homes will be removed and will eventually make way for the McKnight Lane neighborhood.

“There is going to be fourteen high performance modular homes and they are all being manufactured in the state of Vermont.” says Forleo

The total cost of the redevelopment? Three and half million dollars.

Forleo says “There will be a mix of two and three bedroom homes. And it will all be afford able housing for families, which is filling a void within this community.”

Addison County lacks in available affordable housing for families, and the construction of McKnight Lane could be a small step in the right direction.

Chris Falk of Cathedral Square says: “Within months this place will look beautiful.”

Falk says a lot has to be done before the first model home arrives June 27th?

First they have to remove all the debris.

Next will come remediation of any contaminates in the soil

“All the material used in the units are going to be sustainable, such as bamboo flooring. We will have a sidewalk in place that will let the residence walk into town.” says Falk

The goal is to become a net zero neighborhood by powering the homes from renewable energy sources that net a zero dollar annual energy cost.

The completion of the McKnight neighborhood is scheduled for the end of this November.

For a link to the full story, including video, click here.

 



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