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Farrington Residents to Buy Mobile Home Park as Co-op

Posted July 10, 2015

Yesterday residents of Farrington’s Mobile Home Park in Burlington announced that they had reached a deal to purchase the property from the Farrington family. The following report from Seven Days explains the agreement and what lies ahead:

Residents of Burlington’s only mobile home park have signed a purchase agreement to buy the land on which their houses are parked.

When the Farrington’s Mobile Home Park went on the market for $5 million last November, its inhabitants worried they’d be displaced by a developer looking to capitalize on the prime real estate. Located just off North Avenue, the 11-acre property with 120 lots offers what is widely considered to be the most affordable home-owning option in a city where the cost of housing has escalated.

Residents voted to form a cooperative, with the goal of purchasing the property themselves. Robert Farrington, one of several family members who inherited the New North End park, told Seven Days at the time that he was “100 percent” in support of their effort.

But the looming question for months was: Could the residents — many of whom are on fixed incomes — actually cobble together the money to make it happen?

Theresa Lefebvre, who’s lived in Farrington’s for three decades, is president of the new North Avenue Co-Op. She announced today that the group signed a purchase agreement with the Farringtons on Tuesday. It had help along the way from the city, nonprofits with experience financing cooperative purchases, and strong state laws protecting mobile park tenants.

Citing the complexity of the deal, she said they don’t expect to close on the sale for another four months and aren’t releasing further details about the transaction in the meantime, including the final price.

The co-op may need to sell a swath of green space at the southern end of the park to raise the necessary money, according to Lefebvre. But members are hoping instead to raise $800,000 through donations, which would allow them to preserve the land as a play area for children and to have a place to pile snow in the winter.

To view the full article, click here.


Mayor’s Plan to Build More Is Questioned at Housing Summit

Posted May 22, 2015

Below is a report from Alicia Freese at Seven Days from the housing summit that took place this past Wednesday in Burlington. For a link to the full article, click here.

People who arrived at the housing summit with concerns about unbridled development probably didn’t leave feeling any less worried.

The keynote speaker, Tom Angotti, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, came bearing stories of gentrification and development gone awry in New York City.

“We’re seeing that happen here,” a woman in the audience told Angotti. “So what do we do?”

“Three suggestions,” offered the visiting professor: “Organize, organize, organize.”

Burlington residents have been doing plenty of that already. Members of Save Open Space Burlington, which formed when Burlington College was selling a large tract of lakefront land to developer Eric Farrell, have joined forces with people concerned that putting housing in the South End’s Enterprise Zone will squeeze out artists and business owners.

Both groups came together to plan Wednesday’s event, along with members of the neighborhood planning assemblies. Held at Contois Auditorium in Burlington City Hall, it was billed as a response to Mayor Weinberger’s 18-point housing action plan.

In a plan presented to the city council last month, the mayor offered a number of strategies to fix what he’s termed a housing crisis. He’s repeatedly made the case that a severe shortage of housing has made rent and home prices untenably high for many. This issue dominated the mayoral election last March. Key to the solution, according to the mayor’s plan: constructing more units.

But Wednesday night, people pushed back. “New market-rate housing raises rents,” Angotti argued. “And that forces out people who operate at the margin.”

“Do we have any idea how many units will have to be built to bring down rents?” asked Charles Norris Brown, one of the organizers in the South End. He suggested that the city’s “obsession with housing” may “kill the creativity” in the South End.”

At least eight of the 12 city councilors attended. The body agreed to postpone a vote on the mayor’s housing plan until after the summit. Weinberger didn’t come, though his housing point person, Brian Lowe, was there.

Attendees weren’t totally opposed to new housing. People plugged construction of “tiny houses” — a suggestion also included in the mayor’s plan. Ruby Perry, a member of Save Open Space Burlington who lives in one of these houses, told the audience that, particularly in light of climate change, it’s important to “live lightly and to build lightly on the earth.”

To expand the stock of student housing, Charles Simpson suggested developing cooperative housing instead of allowing “circling sharks of opportunistic investors” construct large, profit-generating dorm structures.

At the very end of the meeting, Michael Monte, chief financial officer for the Champlain Housing Trust, which builds and manages a large number of affordable housing apartments in the region, stood up in the audience and attested to the dire need for housing. “There’s a real crisis in Burlington and Chittenden County,” Monte said, choking up. Referring to the homeless population, he added, “They’re living close to the earth, but they don’t want to be there.”


100,000 Homes Update & Seven Days Article

Posted March 5, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the article in full, click here.


100K Homes Community Briefing to Be Held on October 29th

Posted October 24, 2014

Organizers of the 100,000 Homes Campaign in Burlington are excited to share what they learned during the three day registry event that took place earlier this week at a community briefing next Wednesday, October 29 at 5 pm at Contois Auditorium, City Hall, Burlington. They will have preliminary tallies of how many folks we registered, what they know about their housing needs, and will discuss their next steps.

Seven Days profiled the 100,000 Homes Campaign in an article published this week. Below is an excerpt:

As an alternative, the 100,000 Homes initiative aims to collect nuanced information about the chronically homeless. Their goal is not necessarily numbers, but people’s stories, in order to assist the most vulnerable members of the homeless population.

As part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, people get a score based on their confidential survey answers, which is used to gauge the likelihood that they’ll die on the streets. The goal is to use that information to house them, prioritizing the neediest. The resulting database is not public.

The initiative falls under what’s called the Housing First model — which advocates providing shelter immediately, rather than requiring substance abuse, mental health or other treatment. According to the model’s proponents, it often costs less to subsidize apartments than to pay the medical expenses for those left out in the cold.

After the surveys, organizers encourage cities to “cut through red tape” and find ways to house 2.5 percent of the chronically homeless each month. The campaign, which started four years ago, recently surpassed its goal of housing 100,000 people.

To read the entire article click here.



Gimme Shelter: In Vermont, Sequestration Leads to Homelessness

Posted August 15, 2013

By Kevin J. Kelley, August 14, 2013

“A quiet crisis wrought by indiscriminate federal budget cuts may force more than 2000 low-income Vermonters from their homes by the end of the year.

Housing officials plan to remove 774 households from a program that subsidizes rents for many of the state’s poorest residents. The cuts have already affected hundreds of Vermonters who had been taking part in what’s known as the Section 8 voucher system. No one knows what’s become of many of the tenants who have already been turned out…”

Link to Full Seven Days Article

PDF of Full Seven Days Article




One Vermont Town Fights a Farm to Improve Housing for Migrant Workers

Posted July 15, 2013

By Kathryn Flagg, July 10, 2013

“When they’re not milking cows, many of Vermont’s estimated 1500 undocumented migrant farmworkers dwell in shabby mobile homes or cramped RVs, with the shades drawn against prying eyes.

Workers rarely speak out about poor housing conditions for fear of being fired — or deported. And local officials typically don’t get involved in farmworker housing disputes.

But in Salisbury, town officials have made the unusual choice to intervene in a case of second-rate worker housing. At a dairy farm owned by Randy and Jean Quesnel, two Latino farmworkers have been living in filth for years…”

Link to Full Seven Days Article 

PDF of Full Seven Days Article




Why Foreclosures in Vermont Are Up

Posted March 14, 2013

By Kevin J. Kelley. Reposted from Seven Days, March 13, 2013.

“Even as the national foreclosure crisis appears to be easing, Vermont is experiencing a spike in legal filings by mortgage lenders seeking to take title to homes whose owners have fallen behind in their payments.

Vermont’s foreclosure rate has ranked as one of the lowest in the country in the years since the 2008 financial meltdown put millions of Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes. Today, the state is an outlier once again — for the opposite reason. Nationally, foreclosure filings fell by 28 percent last year; in Vermont, they increased 33 percent…”

Link to full Seven Days article
PDF of full Seven Days article


Leaders Question Program that Puts Vermont’s Homeless in Motels

Posted February 5, 2013

By: Kathryn Flagg. Seven Days, January 30, 2013.

“When temperatures plunged below zero degrees in mid-January, Vermont’s homeless shelters filled up fast. Desperate to find more available beds, state workers turned to their next best option: local motels.

The number of subsidized stays spiked during the cold snap, but lodging the homeless is not just a winter phenomenon; it’s an all-season problem. During the last fiscal year, the state picked up the tab for more than 38,000 overnight stays in Vermont motels at a cost of more than $2.2 million — a 55 percent increase over the previous year.

And the problem appears to be getting worse: Gov. Peter Shumlin’s midyear budget adjustment proposal for the current fiscal year calls for a $2.1 million hike in the general assistance fund. Most of that will go to supplement the $1.6 million already budgeted for temporary housing, according to Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings of the Department of Children and Families.

‘I know that we are running hot,” Giddings admits. “I don’t know where we’re going to end up…’”

Link to Seven Days article 

View PDF of Seven Days article


Burlington’s King Street Neighborhood Looks to Build Up — Without Gentrifying

Posted September 25, 2012

By: Kathryn Flagg. Reposted from Seven Days, September 19, 2012.

“Jodi Whalen says Burlington’s King Street neighborhood was ‘a little beaten down’ when she and her husband, Phil Merrick, opened their café and bakery, August First, in 2009. Today, the section is on the upswing, but with empty buildings and vacant lots, Whalen sees room for improvement.

‘Burlington needs to build up,’ she says, “and this is a great neighborhood to do that…'”

Link to Full Seven Days Article

PDF of Full Article


Seven Days Article: The Other Bed Down: Will New Campus Housing Fix Burlington’s Rental Problem?

Posted August 2, 2012

Written By: Kevin J Kelley – July 25, 2012

Apartment vacancies in Burlington typically last about as long as snowballs in summer. That’s because the Queen City’s vacancy rate rarely rises above 1 percent, compared to the 5 percent indicator of a well-balanced market.

But this summer has been different, according to a number of landlords, including Rick Sharp, an attorney who owns a few city apartments typically leased by students. Sharp says vacancy rates are uncharacteristically high this summer for multi-bedroom rental units. About twice as many four-bedroom units are empty now than is typically the case, he estimates.

Sharp’s observation is supported by a flurry of apartment ads that recently appeared in the classified pages of local newspapers.

And it’s backed by a report issued last month from Allen & Brooks, a South Burlington-based real estate appraisal firm, that suggests demand is no longer vastly exceeding supply in Burlington’s student rental market.

“This market appears to have slowed as a result of high rents and competition from the 403-bed Redstone Lofts apartments at the University of Vermont,” the Allen & Brooks report observes. It also notes a new 90-bed dormitory is opening at Champlain College this fall …

Link to Seven Days Full Article

PDF of Full Seven Days Article


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