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

Posted July 18, 2016

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

 



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.

 



Sanders Announces Vermont Secures $3 Million For Affordable Housing

Posted May 5, 2016

BURLINGTON, Vt., May 4 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders today announced Vermont will receive $3 million from the National Housing Trust Fund. The funds are part of $174 million that is being dispersed nationally to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable rental housing. Sanders helped lead a 15-year effort to pass and fund the National Housing Trust Fund.

“Since my time as mayor of Burlington, increasing the availability of affordable housing in Vermont has been one of my top priorities,” Sanders said. “After 15 years of fighting for the National Housing Trust Fund, I am very pleased to see all 50 states receive funds to provide housing for people who are most in need.”

The Trust Fund is the first new federal affordable housing program in decades, and the only one to provide affordable housing for extremely low-income households. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 7.2 million low-income households spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities.

“When you spend half of your money on rent, that leaves very little for other necessities such as food and medicine,” Sanders said.

Sanders first introduced legislation to create the National Housing Trust Fund in 2001, based on the success of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. Congress passed the legislation in 2008, but the Trust Fund did not receive funding until now. The National Housing Trust Fund is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is funded through a small percentage of profits made by government-sponsored agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Sheila Crowley, who retired recently after serving for 17 years as the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the announcement was “a great victory” for homeless and poor families. “At long last, the National Housing Trust Fund will provide states with funds to begin ameliorating the shortage of affordable housing. I am very grateful to Senator Bernie Sanders for championing the NHTF since the first days of our campaign in 2001.”

A Sanders provision in the legislation created a minimum threshold, which ensures smaller states such as Vermont receive at least $3 million from the fund.

Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, said, “This is the first new funding for affordable housing in over 25 years and will create much needed homes for the poorest, most vulnerable Vermonters. We are extremely grateful to Senator Sanders for his longtime leadership role in creating the Trust Fund, which is patterned after our own successful Vermont model.”

To read more about the announcement, click here.

 



Study: Vermont Housing and Health Care Model Shown to Improve Senior Health and Cut Growth in Medicare Spending

Posted April 29, 2016

South Burlington, VT—RTI International and LeadingAge Center for Applied Research recently released the results of their Second Annual SASH (Support And Services at Home) Evaluation. The SASH model; created in South Burlington, VT, by Cathedral Square, residents of Heineberg Senior Housing and partner community agencies; connects low-income Vermont seniors and adults with disabilities with community-based services and promotes coordination of health care. The evaluations of SASH gauge the model’s efficacy in facilitating healthy and economically viable “aging in place”. The federally commissioned study lays the groundwork for national expansion of the model.

The report concludes SASH participants demonstrated statistically significant lower growth in expenditure across categories including total Medicare expenditures, emergency room visits, hospital outpatient department visits, and primary care/specialist physician visits. Against a comparison group, SASH participants in the most experienced panels show growth in Medicare expenses was lower by an estimated $1,536 per beneficiary per year.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a long-time SASH supporter, released the following statement: “I believe that all seniors deserve to age with respect, dignity and have access to the social and medical supports to stay healthy and at home. SASH is a leading model to help seniors achieve that goal.”

“We’re pleased by the Evaluation results. It’s rewarding to see our beliefs confirmed by hard data,” said Kim Fitzgerald, Cathedral Square CEO. “But the real measure of what we do is feedback (SASH participants) give us. They make it clear we’re making a difference in their lives through better health and the freedom of independent living.”

Amy Kandilov, lead investigator for RTI International added, “The aging baby boom generation presents social, economic, and health challenges. We’re encouraged by these findings that SASH offers a cost-effective way to address the impact of an aging population.”

RTI International and its subcontractor, LeadingAge, were engaged by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Administration for Community Living to evaluate the SASH model through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. In this second year of evaluation RTI conducted site visits in four geographic area of Vermont, interviewing staff from core partner organizations including: area agencies on aging, visiting nurse associations, mental health agencies, and the Blueprint for Health’s Community Health Teams. The evaluation team also conducted quarterly calls with SASH staff to collect ongoing feedback on implementation of the program.

View the report here: https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/support-and-services-home-sash-evaluation-second-annual-report

 



VHFA Awards Millions In Tax Credits For Affordable Housing:

Posted April 22, 2016

On Monday, April 18, the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners committed federal low-income housing tax credits and state affordable housing tax credits that will provide almost $25 million in upfront equity to construct and renovate housing for low-income Vermonters and will increase permanent supportive housing for people who were formerly homeless. The $2.578 million in 10 year federal credits and $400,000 in five year state credits support 356 rental homes in 11 communities across the state.

“This year VHFA recognized the urgent need among our most vulnerable neighbors – the homeless – and we revised the state’s qualified allocation plan (QAP) which governs the allocation of these tax credits to give priority to applications that create permanent supportive housing,” explained Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of VHFA. “One quarter of the federal housing credits will fund 31 units dedicated to people who were formerly homeless. It is clear that this policy change has been successful in helping to create permanent homes for Vermonters who are homeless,” she continued. “Unfortunately we were not able to fund four projects that could have provided an additional 157 affordable housing units.”

The investments made by VHFA today will add new homes to the market in Burlington, White River Junction, and Montpelier. They will also totally renovate and secure the long-term affordability of existing housing in Rutland, Marshfield, Bennington, Shaftsbury and Arlington. All of the units utilize green building and design standards, and will be highly energy efficient.

In Rutland, the third and final phase of redeveloping the former Forest Park federal public housing complex, now called Hickory Street, will redevelop 22 apartments for low income Vermonters spread over three newly constructed buildings. The project will be developed by the Rutland Housing Authority and Housing Vermont.

On Burlington’s North Avenue, Phase 1 of a large scale project will create 31 apartments for low income Vermonters and five additional market rate units. Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, and Farrell Real Estate will partner in this effort.

In downtown White River Junction, a building with 16 units for low income Vermonters will be constructed. The mixed-use project called Bridge and Main will also create one market rate rental apartment and ground level commercial rental space. The development was proposed by Bill Bittinger and Associates.

The historic French Block building in downtown Montpelier will be redeveloped to include 14 apartments for low income Vermont renters and 4 market rate apartments. The development is sponsored by a partnership between Downstreet Housing and Community Development and Housing Vermont.

The Hollister Hill project is a complete redevelopment of 16 existing apartments on 6.6 acres near the center of Plainfield although it’s technically in Marshfield. All the units have rental assistance and will be affordable to extremely low income Vermonters according to the owner, Housing Foundation Inc.

Finally, 22 units were funded to redevelop and preserve the affordability of two existing projects in Bennington county. The new project, called Battenkill North, is a scattered site project with units in Bennington, Shaftsbury and Arlington. The project will be developed as a partnership between Shires Housing and Housing Vermont.

At the same meeting VHFA’s Board of Commissioners also awarded the annual amount of Vermont State Housing Tax Credits available for multifamily rental developments. One of those projects, Hickory Street phase three in Rutland, also received federal housing credits described above. The other projects receiving state housing credits were all acquisition/rehabilitation efforts:

· The Briars, 24 units in Wilder by Twin Pines Housing Trust;

· Colonial Village, 21 units in Bradford by Downstreet Housing;

· Applegate, 104 units in Bennington by Housing Vermont;

· South Meadow, 64 units in Burlington by Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont; and

· Sugarwood, 12 units in Middlebury by Green Mountain Development Corp.

In addition to the equity created by the allocation of these housing credits, other funding sources needed for these projects include the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the federal HOME program, Affordable Housing Program, local Housing Trust Funds, NeighborWorks, the Vermont Community Development Program, Efficiency Vermont and Downtown Rehabilitation Tax Credits.

The Vermont Legislature created VHFA in 1974 to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 28,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,600 affordable, safe and decent rental units.

For a link to this press release, click here.

 



Leahy, Sanders, Welch Announce $1.4M In Affordable Housing Grants

Posted March 3, 2016

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) Thursday announced more than $1.4 million in NeighborWorks America grants to revitalize communities and support access to affordable housing across Vermont.

NeighborWorks America is a public nonprofit established by Congress to invest in revitalizing communities and preserving affordable housing across the country. In Vermont, five NeighborWorks affiliate organizations receive these annual funds to support homeownership counseling, the creation of much-needed new affordable housing, home repair and energy efficiency assistance grants. Since its creation, NeighborWorks has been recognized for its partnership between community, public and private stakeholders that successfully leverage an average of $50 in other investments for every $1 appropriated.

In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: “Every Vermonter should have the peace of mind that comes with a safe and affordable home. This year’s allocation is a step toward achieving that goal and a common sense investment in our communities. Vermont’s NeighborWorks partners are nationally recognized for the innovative housing and community development practices seen throughout this state and are a critical part of our communities as they tackle some of our toughest challenges. We are fortunate to have the leadership of these organizations, and remain glad to support these grants.”

As the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy has led the request for increased annual funding for NeighborWorks America. Last year, Leahy also led a bipartisan letter with Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) urging the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies to continue strong support for NeighborWorks.

NeighborWorks America awarded five grants to Vermont’s affiliates totaling $1,467,000.

Champlain Housing Trust – $390,000

Downstreet Housing and Community Development – $205,000

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont – $330,000

RuralEdge – $247,000

Windham & Windsor Housing Trust – $295,000

For a link to this press release, click here.

 



VHCB Commits $3.953 Million to Create and Rehabilitate 220 Homes in 8 Towns

Posted February 29, 2016

On Thursday, February 4, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board committed $3,953,500 to develop, rehabilitate and preserve 218 affordable homes in settings ranging from shared elderly housing in Rochester, to new construction in White River Junction, redevelopment of deteriorated public housing in Rutland, energy retrofit and rehabilitation of apartments in Bennington, Bradford, and Wilder, and mobile home parks in Hardwick and Ludlow. The VHCB commitments of state funding will leverage $32.6 million in other public and private funds.

VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig said, “These investments will create 57 new, energy efficient homes in tight rental markets and rehabilitate and increase the energy efficiency of 163 apartments, renewing valuable housing resources for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. In addition to improving quality of life for renters and homeowners, these developments employ construction workers, excavators, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, and landscapers in communities around the state.”

White River Junction – Highly energy efficient apartments will be constructed at the intersection of Bridge and Main Streets in a downtown lot that has been vacant since 2005 following a fire. Railroad Row LLC, a private development corporation, will receive $500,000 in federal HOME funds awarded by VHCB to subsidize seventeen apartments. Project-based rental assistance provided by the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program through the Vermont State Housing Authority will make the apartments affordable to very low-income residents. The pedestrian-friendly site is in close proximity to public transportation options, shopping, services, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center. There is a high demand for housing in the White River Junction area, where the vacancy rate hovers at 1%.

Bennington – Housing Vermont and Shires Housing will complete rehabilitation and energy conservation work and refinance Applegate Apartments using $1,549,631 in VHCB and federal HOME funds in the $9.6 million redevelopment. Planned improvements will increase energy efficiency, affordability and accessibility and reduce operating expenses. A biomass heating system will be installed to serve the 104-unit apartment complex. Buildings will receive new windows, doors, siding, roofs and exterior insulation. Additionally, there will be repairs to sewer lines, upgrades to water lines, electrical upgrades, accessibility and code upgrades, improvements to roadways, sidewalks and parking areas.

Rutland – In the final phase in the redevelopment of Hickory Street (a former public housing project that was known as Forest Park), Housing Vermont and the Rutland Housing Authority will demolish 27 dilapidated apartments and construct 22 new apartments heated by a wood pellet system. The developers will use $265,000 in VHCB funding for the last phase of this 78-unit development. Installation of sewer and water, storm water and electric service for three single-family homes to be built by Rutland Habitat for Humanity on the east end of the development is included in the budget. In the course of redeveloping Forest Park, severe health threats have been addressed, the neighborhood has been revitalized, the number of homes has increased and the income mix has been altered to integrate households of various income levels, consistent with state housing policy.

Bradford – In a $2.45 million redevelopment using $350,000 in VHCB funds from the State of Vermont and $410,000 in federal HOME funding, Downstreet Housing & Community Development will rehabilitate four buildings at Colonial Village, a 21-apartment development with project-based rental assistance. Rehab will include new sidewalks and paving, new windows and energy efficiency upgrades including a wood pellet heating system. Accessibility improvements, new flooring, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, new appliances, smoke detectors and water saving plumbing fixtures will be added, along with a new sprinkler system. Located within walking distance of the town center, Colonial Village provides housing for seniors, families, and individuals with disabilities.

Hardwick – In a pilot project, the Lamoille Housing Partnership (LHP) will use $578,000 in VHCB funds and a $1.3 million loan from USDA Rural Development to place 13 energy efficient modular homes at Evergreen Manor Mobile Home Park. LHP will rent the homes, which are built by VerMod in Wilder, Vermont, to eligible households. Solar photovoltaic panels will produce electricity and air source heat pumps will heat and cool the units, resulting in net-zero energy use.

Wilder – Twin Pines Housing Trust and Housing Vermont will rehabilitate the Briars, a 24-unit complex, using $345,000 in VHCB funding and a HOME award of $365,000. Constructed in 1988, the buildings require new roofs, furnaces and weatherization. Paving of parking areas, site drainage and grading, installation of water-saving showerheads and faucets, new handicap railings and attic venting are included in the scope of work. Addressing the capital needs of the buildings and reducing the energy usage will serve the buildings for many years to come. The number of affordable units will be increased as well. In a partnership with the Upper Valley Haven, Twin Pines leases two units to formerly homeless households.

Rochester – Park House is a shared housing residence for 14 seniors located in the center of the village that will use $250,000 in VHCB funds to address health and safety code requirements including installing a sprinkler system and upgrading fire alarm and elevator. Park House was developed in 1990 and has housed 140 frail elders since that time. Future work will address energy efficiency needs.

Ludlow – Using $85,000 in VHCB funding, the Housing Trust of Rutland County will subsidize two new homes to be located on vacant lots in the Tuckerville Mobile Home Park. One home will be a conventional, Energy Star-rated home and one will be an energy efficient modular home built by VerMod.

Other commitments made at the meeting were $225,500 to the Upper Valley Land Trust to conserve 60 acres of farmland in Norwich, support for the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program that coordinates health care services for elders at housing sites ($35,000), and feasibility funding for projects in the early stages of development ($45,000).

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

 



Welch Initiative to Assist Low-Income Mobile Homeowners Passes House

Posted February 9, 2016

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that would expand the federal housing assistance program to cover previously ineligible expenses of low income mobile home owners.  The bipartisan initiative was approved as an amendment to the Housing Opportunities Through Modernization Act (H.R. 3700), which passed the House and will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

“Low-income Vermonters are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes,” Rep. Welch said. “This legislation will provide a much-needed boost in federal assistance to low-income mobile home owners in Vermont and across the country.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 housing choice voucher program provides financial assistance to help low-income families afford reliable housing across the country. Currently, this critical housing program disadvantages mobile home owners who are only permitted to utilize the housing voucher for the cost of the land leased underneath their home. However, the land leased is only a small portion of the cost that many mobile home owners pay for their housing.

Welch’s amendment expands the scope of the housing choice voucher program to better reflect the true costs of housing for low-income mobile homeowners. It would allow the property taxes paid on the mobile home, as well as insurances, utilities, and financing, to be included as housing costs eligible for the Section 8 payment. The amendment will also provide parity between the housing vouchers received by low-income mobile home owners and those received by low-income individuals living in rental units.

In 2010, there were an estimated 22,436 mobile homes in Vermont, according to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Welch for his leadership on this important amendment, which provides low-income mobile home owners who lease the land under their homes with comparable assistance to that of their neighbors who rent,” said Erhard Mahnke, Coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “We’ve been hoping for a fix to this unfair policy for many years and are thrilled that it has passed the House as part of a bill that makes many other crucial and long awaited reforms to the Section 8 program. This will be of great and long lasting benefit to low-income and vulnerable Vermonter mobile home owners who struggle to pay for their housing costs,” said Coordinator for Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition Erhard Mahnke.

The legislation backed by Welch is supported by the National Manufactured Home Owners Association, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the New England Housing Network.

For a link to this press release, click here. For more on this amendment, click here.

 



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