If you’re wondering why everyone keeps talking about “ARPA,” you’re not alone. The American Rescue Plan Act, the most recent federal stimulus package, was signed into law on March 11, 2021, and includes much more on top of the $1400 economic stimulus payments. Senator Bernie Sanders called the Act “the most significant legislation for working families in the modern history of this country.” There is a significant amount for housing programs, though we don’t yet know when Vermont will receive all of its allocated dollars or the exact stipulations attached to them.
Here’s how ARPA will help Vermonters find housing and stay housed:
$152 million in emergency rent and utility assistance. This is on top of the $200 million already allocated in December relief bill, which is funding the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (open for applications now!)
$11 million in HOME funds, including $9.5 million to VHCB and $1.5 million to the city Burlington. These long-awaited dollars can help fund new construction and could help substantially with transitioning folks currently in motels.
$50 million in mortgage assistance to homeowners. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury on how to set up a new mortgage assistance program similar to the one last fall.
$10 million in rental assistance through USDA
$20 million in additional utility assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Additionally, ARPA allocated $1.35 billion in direct aid to Vermont’s state and local governments for economic recovery activities. Governor Phil Scott has proposed a plan to invest these dollars towards crucial infrastructure initiatives, including $249 million towards affordable housing, creating 5,000 new units for low- and moderate-income Vermonters in the next four years.
The Governor’s plan includes:
$12 million to fund 150 units of emergency shelter to address acute, short-term needs.
$90 million to rapidly develop 600 units of permanent, stable housing for Vermonters experiencing homelessness & exiting motels.
$90 million to the existing pipeline of affordable housing projects in Vermont, bringing another 2,434 units online.
$42 million to create a new program for moderate-income homebuyers. The funds would be used to build 1,100 new housing units and offer purchase incentives for residents.
$15 million to the Vermont Housing Investment Program, funding private landlords to rehabilitate 680 currently vacant, code-deficient, or abandoned units.
“We applaud the Governor’s commitment in his ARPA plan for ensuring that every Vermonter has safe, decent and affordable housing,” said Brian Pine, VAHC Interim Coordinator. “Along with the tri-partisan support for meaningful housing funding and policy reforms already underway in the Legislature, this commitment to housing for Vermonters from across the income spectrum is critical to bringing about an economic recovery that leaves nobody behind. As federal funding to protect renters from becoming homeless flows into Vermont, it is especially critical that we make investments to expand the supply of permanent housing for low and moderate-income families.”