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VT Digger Reports on 2015 VHCB Conference

Yesterday the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board held its conference in Burlington. Titled “Envisioning Vermont 2025: Challenges for the Next Decade,” the conference highlighted themes of social justice and collaboration. Below is an excerpt from a report on the conference by Mark Johnson of VT Digger:

Advocates for affordable housing and land conservation wrestled Tuesday with how to collaborate better among themselves and with other social service agencies, as well as how to generate more public understanding and enthusiasm for their work. While applauding the work that’s been done by the Vermont Housing Conservation Board, speakers at a VHCB conference in Burlington agreed more needs to be done, particularly in affordable housing. They noted that places like Burlington have a 1 percent vacancy rate for renters, with demand outstripping supply and keeping rents high. They also noted home prices make buying a home unaffordable for many, even where two adults are working, and that homelessness has increased. The Legislature created the VHCB in 1987. Its mission is to help create affordable housing, conserve agricultural and recreation lands, forestland, natural areas and historic properties. Executive Director Gus Seelig said the organization has been able to help leverage more than $1 billion in public and private funding in 28 years for Vermont’s nonprofit housing and conservation organizations. Since its inception, the trust has received more than $270 million in funding from the state through a dedicated part of the property transfer tax receipts. The group says it has helped keep more than 11,000 homes affordable in Vermont and conserved approximately 400,000 acres of farm, recreational and natural lands. Many of the more than 200 people who attended the conference framed their work in a broader context, beyond their specific issue, as an effort to promote “social justice.” Instead of viewing me as a housing specialist, said one, view me as someone trying to improve the community.

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