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In case you missed it: Providing the security of a home

By Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. Reposted from the Burlington Free Press, November 22, 2012.  “Snow is in the air. It’s the season when we really focus on the warmth of home. It’s time to prepare the house for winter, and also the time when we look forward to the warmth of friends and family and holiday traditions. At Champlain Housing Trust we focus year-round on providing the comfort and security of a good home for all who seek our help. That can be a first step out of homelessness or the big step of homeownership, and many options in between. Four-thousand, five-hundred people live in our 2,600 homes. Each month, 100 more apply to us for an affordable apartment and annually over 150 seek our help in fulfilling their dream of homeownership. Accessing a home is toughest for people who are homeless and for those with special needs. By working with the region’s shelter providers, we lease apartments to families before they have established credit, income or references (standard steps to conventional renting) so that they can rebuild their lives from the strong base of a home of their own. Social service providers working with the disabled and chronically ill also partner with us by staffing properties serving these groups. These agencies also make it possible for people with special needs to live in our conventional rentals with as-needed back-up. We’ve also created a program, Ready-Set-Rent! for the all too common problem of bad credit. Instead of turning people away we offer them a good rental if they join our credit repair program which includes ongoing budget counseling. Sixty families have reaped the benefits of this program since we launched it last year. Most of our rentals serve working families whose just cannot afford market rent. These workers are vital to our economy and quality of life. People in healthcare, childcare, retail and service industries contribute so much to our communities and we are very proud to offer them attractive and secure homes withaffordable rents and utilities. In fact we have been greening all of our older properties with solar, up-to-date boilers and insulation so that these costs remain affordable too. Homeownership remains a goal or dream for most people, and we have pioneered a way to make that dream a reality for many more people through our shared-equity homeownership program that has become a model nationally and internationally. In all 850 families have been boosted into homeownership through this program, and two-thirds have gone on from this to owning a home in the private market. When they sell we recycle the affordability to a new buyer. A recent national study showed that the foreclosure rate in shared-equity homes was ten times lower than in the market, even though our buyers all have modest incomes. The security of home is essential to all of us. That means a home we can afford, where we do not fear displacement, where we are warm and safe and happy to return each day to recharge and rest. When everyone has the security of home, the entire community is stronger, safer and healthier. This is what drives Champlain Housing Trust to invent, innovate and grow.”

[Torpy lives in South Hero. She has led the organization for more than 20 years and is president of the National Community Land Trust Network and a member of the Governor’s Housing Council. Under her leadership, the Housing Trust won the United Nations World Habitat Award in 2008.]

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