BURLINGTON, Vt. – As Vermont looks to rebound from the pandemic, it’s become clearer than ever that the state’s lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis point.
In an effort to chip away at the longstanding issue, it was announced this week that $26 million in funding from federal housing tax credits will go toward building 105 ‘permanently affordable apartments’ in five communities across the state.
It builds on Vermont leaders’ allocation of $190 million in the state budget for affordable housing initiatives, but with more and more renters being priced out of the market as affordability and availability worsens, Vermonters are struggling.
“The need is enormous,” said Michael Monte, Executive Director of the Champlain Housing Trust. “In the last four months, we had 940 applications for a list of 50 apartments.”
Monte is eager to break ground on 24 new affordable apartments at Sunderland Farms in Colchester as part of the federal housing tax credit funding, but it’s just one of many irons in the fire for CHT. An application is out for an additional 100 units, and federal relief funding has people like Monte excited about the future.
“I’ve got to say that we really are now working with new opportunities every day,” Monte said. “If we had all the resources we needed, we’d be able to build hundreds upon hundreds of apartments. Those resources will come, we hope, but we expect we’ll be able to do even more than we have in the past few years.”
Maura Collins, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, said roughly a quarter of the 105 new affordable apartments going up in Colchester, South Hero, Morrisville, Bristol and Berlin will be set aside for Vermonters experiencing homelessness.
Bayview Crossing in South Hero will have six apartments specifically for seniors who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing.
“About 15 percent of the state’s homeless population are elderly, and when you consider the fixed income and needs of that population, it’s wonderful when developers like Cathedral Square corporation have projects like the one in South Hero,” Collins said. “We’re proud to support it.”
The $26 million will cover 60 percent of the total development costs for the apartments, and is the largest single funding source for affordable housing development in Vermont.
“The federal housing tax credit program is an absolutely vital resource that has proven to be an exceptional tool for addressing Vermont’s shortage of affordable rental housing,” said Senator Patrick Leahy. “It’s critical we expand it to help Vermont recover from the pandemic.”
Senator Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as Rep. Peter Welch, are sponsors of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which would increase the annual Housing Credit allocation by 50 percent. Advocates say it would make it easier to serve extremely low-income and formerly homeless tenants and encourage more development in rural areas.
“Even before the pandemic, far too many Vermont families struggled to afford their rent and ran the risk of becoming homeless,” Senator Sanders said. “It is absolutely unacceptable that thousands of Vermonters and over 580,000 Americans are homeless on any given night. To my mind, there is no question that housing is a human right and that we need to invest more resources in permanently affordable homes to provide safe, stable housing for all our people.”