News

Agreement reached on affordable homeownership at Cambrian Rise

Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust and Eric Farrell announced today that an agreement has been reached on the development of 30 affordable condominiums on the former Burlington College land now known as Cambrian Rise. This will be the first of what is expected to be a two phase project.

The agreement stipulates a purchase price of the 30 condominiums of $6.3 million. The sale price is discounted from estimated market value of $8.5 million due to Burlington’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, and is dependent on CHT securing funds to help finance the purchase. Some of the funding is budgeted to come from the proceeds of the affordable housing bond recently enacted by the Vermont Legislature. An application is pending at the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board seeking that funding.

A second phase is anticipated that would double the number of permanently affordable condos to be built for a total of 60 affordable homes. The condominiums are planned to be built over the next two to three years. 

“We look forward to adding this significant number of permanently affordable homes to this very challenging housing market in Chittenden County,” said Michael Monte, COO/CFO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “Combined with the affordable family and senior rentals planned for this site, there will be nearly 200 new affordable homes in Burlington to provide a wide range of options.”

These condominiums will help fill a large need for affordable housing in Chittenden County. After subsidy, the 30 condominiums in the first phase of the development will have an estimated sale price of between $140,000 and $180,000. The median priced home in Chittenden County sold for $287,000 in the first half of 2017.

“I’ve always believed in sustainability when developing new homes,” added Eric Farrell. “Sustainability doesn’t only mean all the renewable energy systems and environmental protections that we’re including at Cambrian Rise, it also means equity and ensuring people of all incomes can live here.”

The condominiums will be made affordable through CHT’s shared equity homeownership program. This program provides down payment assistance and homebuyer education for qualified buyers. In exchange, buyer agree to share a portion of the appreciation of their home when they sell, keeping the home affordable. This program was recognized by the United Nations with a World Habitat Award in 2008.

The construction of the new affordable homes are part of a larger development with 739 planned homes, a 12 acre public park with beach access, a community garden and commercial space.  In addition to the 60 new affordable homes for sale, the 739 homes will also include 128 affordable rentals for families and seniors with incomes of less than 65 percent of the Chittenden County median income.  The first apartments in Liberty House (the old Orphanage) are occupied, and the remaining affordable and market housing will be constructed after Farrell receives necessary permits.


CHT Buys St. Joseph School

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust announced today that it has purchased the St. Joseph School on Allen Street in the Old North End from the St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish Charitable Trust for $2.15 million. The acquisition was made with plans to transform the building into a multi-purpose community center serving not only the residents of the neighborhood, but the rest of Burlington and greater region.

“This is a major milestone in our plans to create a home for so many critical programs serving such a diversity of people,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “We’re looking forward to the next phases of activity and renovation, to fully breathe new life into what will become a great community resource. We deeply appreciate working with both the Parish and Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont in this transaction.”

To make the building accessible and serve immediate needs, CHT has already installed a new elevator and is putting in a commercial kitchen. Facilitating the purchase and these renovations was bridge financing from the Vermont Community Loan Fund ($2.3 million) and a charitable investment by the Vermont Community Foundation ($500,000).

The loan from the Vermont Community Loan Fund is the largest in its history.

“We are very excited to be underwriting CHT’s efforts to create a community center in Burlington’s Old North End,” said Will Belongia, Executive Director of the Loan Fund. “They have been such a strong and steady partner over the years, and the vision that they brought forward of creating a vibrant center made this an easy project to want to be involved with.”

“As we think about our mission, we know that projects like the purchase and renovation of the St. Joseph School is integral to the health and vitality of Vermont communities,” said Dan Smith, CEO and President of the Foundation. “This new community center will bring together thousands of Vermonters, young Vermonters and older ones, new citizens and longtime ones. We’re looking forward to seeing this building flourish in the coming years.”

An additional $7 million is being sought from a variety of sources as long term equity and financing, and for needed renovations including new heating and cooling, windows, electric and plumbing, technology and energy efficiency improvements.

Existing tenants – Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, Association of Africans Living in Vermont, and the Family Room – approached CHT two years ago when the school was put on the market. CHT agreed to look at purchasing and renovating the building, and the community center concept gelled when the City of Burlington’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department expressed interest in renting a significant portion of the building. The BPRW Department has begun to move their programs into the building and will be subleasing space to other programs or organizations in addition to using it for their own offerings.

At this point, until the remaining resources are secured, further renovations are on hold. You can follow the project's progress on Twitter: @StJoesONE.


Bel Aire Motel Converted to Apartments to House Homeless

Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust, UVM Medical Center, community leaders and other partners came together today to celebrate the opening of the Bel Aire Apartments in Burlington’s South End. The former motel has been converted to eight apartments that will become home to 12-15 people.

The new apartments, owned by the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT), will house people who have experienced chronic homelessness or who are living in unsafe conditions that would inhibit their ability to recover from a medical condition. Case management and social work from the Community Health Centers of Burlington will provide services to residents. This is the latest step in a coordinated campaign to end homelessness in Chittenden County, one that has contributed to a nearly 50% reduction in the past three years, according the annual Point in Time count.

CHT’s purchase and renovation of the property was made possible by a grant from the UVM Medical Center. The UVM Medical Center is also providing funding for case management and operations. Earlier collaborations in Vermont – and similar programs around the country – demonstrate health savings that outweigh the cost of the housing while helping people become healthier.

“If a patient is discharged from the hospital without a safe and reliable place to store medication or simply to sleep, it can be difficult to avoid a trip back to the Emergency Room,” said Eileen Whalen, President and Chief Operating Officer at the UVM Medical Center. “By helping the patients we serve who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless, we help them focus on getting better and save health care dollars.” 

“Four years ago, we committed to redoubling our efforts towards virtually eliminating homelessness in our region,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. “Today is another, very important step towards that goal, and we can’t thank the UVM Medical Center enough for their partnership.”

The former motor lodge with 12 rooms was a family-run business originally built in the 1960s. The location and structure of the building lent itself almost perfectly for this adaptation and next chapter in its life. The renovation was managed by 2nd Generation Builders. The property now has one efficiency, five 1-bedroom, one 2-bedroom and one 4-bedroom apartment. Five of the apartments will subsidized through a voucher made available by the Burlington Housing Authority; the remaining will be covered by the UVM Medical Center. More information can be found on a "Frequently Asked Questions" sheet [PDF].

The apartments will come furnished and Burlington Telecom is providing discounted rates to the residents. CVOEO’s Weatherization Program provided support for the building renovation, and local businesses donated plants for window boxes.

The UVM Medical Center will fill three apartments with patients for whom continued hospital stay is not necessary, but may not have a safe place to recover. The remaining five will be people identified by community organizations as most in need, as determined by an ongoing assessment coordinated by the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance. Tenants will move in mid-August.

“Congratulations to the Champlain Housing Trust and UVM Medical Center for coming together with this innovative partnership to create the Bel Aire Apartments,” Mayor Miro Weinberger added. “The City of Burlington is committed to do anything within our means to end chronic homelessness. Housing First strategies are proven to work, and we are excited that efforts like this one at the Bel Aire will make significant headway to address this issue.”

The conversion of the Bel Aire is the latest in a series of collaborative efforts with these partners and others. Harbor Place, a motel in Shelburne, has provided emergency lodging for people with no other place to turn. It has saved the state over $1 million and saved an estimated $1 million in health care costs – all while being more effective at helping people find permanent housing.

Beacon Apartments in South Burlington used to be the Ho Hum Motel. It is now home to 19 people who had been chronically homeless with medical vulnerabilities. That property opened in January, 2016

For more information and a short video on these partnerships, please visit: www.getahome.org/housing-is-healthcare. If you are interested in providing support for these initiatives, please contact Chris Donnelly.

Legislature Approves Historic Affordable Housing Investment

Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

After years of education, outreach and advocacy, we’ll soon see some significant movement towards alleviating the severe housing affordability challenges Vermonters face. 

The Vermont Legislature just passed a budget that included a historic investment in affordable housing, enabling the issuance of up to $35 million in revenue bonds to support the creation of much needed housing for Vermonters. It is cause for celebration, and it is cause for hope that we can move closer to ensuring every Vermonter has a safe and decent place to call home. 

Today is a very good day: the $35 million investment in affordable housing is the largest in Vermont’s history.

The housing bond, which was introduced by Governor Phil Scott and embraced by Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson – and business and municipal leaders – will also act as an economic stimulus for Vermont communities by leveraging as much as another $100 million in capital to build and rehab affordable housing in all corners of the State.

The bond will help pay for the development or rehab up to 650 homes for Vermonters struggling to afford to live in their communities. In fact, recent data demonstrated that Vermont is the 13th most expensive state in the nation to live for people that rent. The annual Point in Time count of homelessness showed that after a couple of years of progress, there has been an 11% increase statewide, with some regions especially challenged. Not all the news is negative: collaborative efforts in Chittenden County have returned a 45% reduction in homelessness since 2014; a primary barrier to more progress is simply building more housing, especially important now that federal cuts to social safety net programs loom on the horizon.

The resources are dedicated to housing that is permanently affordable and ensure that different populations benefit: at least 25% of the housing must be affordable to households who earn half of the median income, and at least 25% must be affordable to those earning between 80% and 120% of median. These two income bands have been identified as the ones who most lack housing options across the state. The rest of the bond proceeds will serve people earning less than 120% of area median income.

Homelessness Drops in Chittenden County for Third Straight Year

Posted on Monday, May 01, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

Members of the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance and Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced more progress towards their shared goal of eliminating homelessness in Chittenden County, with this year’s Point in Time count indicating a 12% drop in the number of homeless individuals. This progress includes a reduction in both the number of families experiencing homelessness and those who are chronically homeless. The 12% drop brings the overall decrease in homelessness to 45% over the past four years. The January count found 291 people in shelters, other temporary housing options, or completely unsheltered.

“The reduction this year, and for the past three years running, is a testament to collaboration and making sure we all have our eyes on the same prize,” said Erin Ahearn of the Community Health Centers of Burlington and a co-chair of the Homeless Alliance. “We have steadily decreased homelessness across all demographics and can see a future where homelessness is rare and brief.”

The Point in Time count is completed at the end of January each year in communities across the country. The count offers an opportunity to collect data on not only the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, but additional information such as household size, numbers living with mental illness or substance dependency, or the number of veterans without permanent housing. In this way, the count not only provides an ability to evaluate progress year-over-year, but also helps identify where services and resources may be deployed better.

“This third year in a row of decreases is an indication that the public investments to reduce and eliminate homelessness are working. There’s more work to do – but the fact that we’re making progress signals to us that we will succeed in meeting our goal of eliminating homelessness with additional investment in new housing, services and rental assistance,” added Margaret Bozik of the Champlain Housing Trust and the other co-chair of the Alliance.

“I am encouraged to see how much progress we have made as a community to address homelessness by focusing resources on the most vulnerable and pursuing innovative new strategies,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “I have great hope that with our continued collaboration we can bring an end to homelessness in Chittenden County. The $35 million Housing Bond proposal in front of the Legislature would be a big boost towards that goal.”

Progress towards ending homelessness in Chittenden County has benefited from Housing First strategies spearheaded members of the Alliance, adopted as policy by the City of Burlington in 2015, and supported by many partners, which focus resources on addressing the needs of the chronically homeless.

Several key projects have helped individuals experiencing homelessness find permanent housing over the last several years:

  • In 2013, Champlain Housing Trust’s Harbor Place, a motel in Shelburne which offers supportive services, opened and has not only saved money but been more effective at helping people find permanent housing than the simple motel voucher program.
  • Beacon Apartments in South Burlington opened by the Champlain Housing Trust and Community Health Centers of Burlington in early 2015 with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), United Way of Northwest Vermont, University of Vermont Medical Center, and Shelter plus Care vouchers administered by the Burlington Housing Authority. Beacon Apartments houses and supports 19 individuals who were chronically homeless and who had medical vulnerabilities.
  • Community Health Centers of Burlington ran a low-barrier warming shelter this past winter, building on the work of COTS and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity the previous two winters.
  • With the support of the City of Burlington, Housing Vermont and state funders like VHCB, the Committee on Temporary Shelter reopened its Daystation in April, 2017. In the same building 14 new apartments were constructed, four of which are dedicated to people who were formerly homeless.
  • The Champlain Housing Trust and the University of Vermont Medical Center are turning the Bel Aire Motel to into apartments for people who have been homeless or are unable to be discharged from a hospital bed for lack of a better option. The Community Health Centers of Burlington will provide services on site. 
  • Several communities are looking to using local Housing Trust Funds to address housing challenges: the Town of Williston is exploring creating a new trust fund, the City of South Burlington established one in 2014, and the City of Burlington has doubled its contribution to its housing trust fund.

In addition to this year’s 12% drop in the number of homeless individuals, the Chittenden County Point in Time count demonstrated several other positive trends. Since 2015, progress has been made by:

  • Decreasing chronic homelessness by 56%;
  • Lowering family homelessness by 29%;
  • Reducing homelessness among people with severe mental illness by 42%; and
  • Dropping incidence of homelessness with those affected by substance use disorder by 70%.

In spite of this progress, nearly 300 individuals continue to live without homes in Chittenden County. The Alliance and Mayor Weinberger urged leaders in Montpelier to pass the proposed $35 million dollar Housing Bond to support future efforts to address the needs of homeless individuals, or individuals at risk of becoming homeless, in Chittenden County.

Delta Dental Plan of Vermont Makes $60,000 Grant to Reduce Homelessness

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Chittenden County Homeless Alliance announced today a $60,000 grant from Delta Dental Plan of Vermont awarded to fund a collective impact approach towards making homelessness in Chittenden County both rare and brief. The award will help expand and coordinate the involvement of government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens through the hiring of backbone support. This support will better organize local efforts around homelessness, to reinforce successful strategies and to ensure that success is measured consistently through systems of reliable shared data.

“It is important to make sure residents of Chittenden County have access to basic human needs like nourishment and reliable shelter.  Taking these worries away will establish a platform to help them achieve their best oral and overall health.  We are proud to partner with the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance to collectively tackle the complex issues that lead people to experience homelessness,” said Tom Raffio, President & CEO of Delta Dental Plan of Vermont.
The efforts underway have shown initial success with a local reduction in homelessness by 30% last year. Still, over 300 people are homeless on any given night in Chittenden County.
“The support of Delta Dental Plan of Vermont gives us the capacity to move our work forward,” said Margaret Bozik, Co-Chair of the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance, and Director of Asset Management & Special Initiatives at the Champlain Housing Trust. “Homelessness has a devastating impact on health and child well-being, as well as creating potentially unnecessary cost burdens on public systems. Because of this grant we believe we can make a significant difference in improving housing stability, reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness and quickly rehouse those who do lose their homes.”
The Chittenden County Homeless Alliance is a community coalition that collaborates to share information about the current and emerging causes of homelessness, to identify solutions and barriers to progress, and to develop and advocate for policies that further our vision of a safe, decent, affordable, stable home for every person and family in Chittenden County.
Delta Dental Plan of Vermont is one of three Delta Dental Plans doing business jointly as Northeast Delta Dental.  Northeast Delta Dental administers dental benefits to more than 832,000 people throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, including organizations of all sizes, and individuals and families, with no access to employer-sponsored dental benefits.  Learn more about Northeast Delta Dental at nedelta.com

Bright Street Housing Co-op wins National Award

Posted on Friday, February 10, 2017, by Chris Donnelly


The Bright Street Housing Cooperative has been selected for the 2017 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association. Bright Street Housing Co-op is a new, 40 home development created by Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont in Burlington’s Old North End. The City of Burlington and its Community and Economic Development Office, which sponsored the award, will be recognized on February 17 at a ceremony in Washington, DC on behalf of the co-op. It was one of six other communities selected to receive the award.

“One of the primary focuses of this Administration has been on addressing Burlington’s affordable housing crisis,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The City was pleased to support Champlain Housing Trust and Housing Vermont in the creation of 40 much-needed units that will provide homes for families and individuals from a range of backgrounds and income levels. We are thrilled that the product of this partnership has been recognized by the national Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award.”

The co-op received funding through the City’s Community Development Grant program, its HOME allocation and the Burlington Housing Trust Fund, as well state and national sources such as the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, tax credits allocated by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, and NeighborWorks America. The TD Charitable Foundation selected Bright Street as a winner in its annual Housing for Everyone competition.

Residents moved in this past fall, following a large community ribbon cutting celebration which coincided with a trip to Burlington from then-HUD Secretary Julian Castro, organized by Senator Patrick Leahy.


Champlain Housing Trust to Buy Burlington Motel to House Homeless

Posted on Friday, December 09, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and University of Vermont Medical Center announced a new effort today to address homelessness through an innovative partnership that deepens the connection between housing and health care.

Using funds invested by the medical center, CHT will purchase and convert the Bel Aire Motel on Shelburne Street in Burlington into eight rental apartments to house people who are either frequent users of health care services or who are patients but no longer need hospital care. The apartments will house twelve residents who lack a safe place to call home in order to recover. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions [PDF].
The tenants will be supported by a caseworker from the Community Health Centers of Burlington. In addition to a capital commitment, the UVM Medical Center is pledging its support for operating costs. The same three organizations have collaborated on other successful efforts to reduce homelessness at properties in Shelburne, South Burlington and Burlington, with a video produced on the benefits of this partnership.
One such collaboration resulted in a 60% drop over one year in the cost of providing medical care to a small group of people experiencing homelessness, saving more than $1 million. The rate of homelessness has dropped by 31% in Vermont according to the most recent annual Point-in-Time count, much of this success due to these types of partnerships and new initiatives. The reduction came on the heels of seven years of growing numbers of people without a home.
“The purchase of the Bel Aire and conversion to apartments is part of a larger successful, coordinated strategy to house people experiencing homelessness,” said Michael Monte, COO/CFO of the Housing Trust. “The UVM Medical Center’s involvement has been critical and we look forward to transforming the property in the coming months.”
“These patients deserve to be in the supportive community setting they need to improve their health, and the Bel Aire apartments will provide that,” said Dr. Stephen Leffler, chief medical officer at the UVM Medical Center.  “Our mission is to work with others to improve people’s lives, and there is no better example than this collaborative approach to addressing a critical housing need.  This is exactly the kind of investment we need to make if we’re going to achieve the goal of improving the health of our communities while controlling costs.”
The property will be purchased by mid-December and renovations will be made over the winter with expected occupancy in April. The building will be converted into six studio or one-bedroom apartments, one 2-bedroom apartment and one 4-bedroom apartment. The apartments will house tenants with a range of supportive needs, ranging from case management to live independently to those who will benefit from medical respite – or patients who don’t need hospital care but who are unable to recover on the street or in tent encampments.
CHT will be submitting a permit for the changes to the property soon. The adaptation will bring the motel, currently a non-conforming use in the City’s zoning regulations, into zoning compliance. No additional buildings or construction to expand the foot print of the property is planned.

Harbor Place Guests Ruled Members of the General Public

Posted on Thursday, December 01, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

The Shelburne Development Review Board, on a 4-2 vote, reaffirmed that Harbor Place, CHT’s motel serving people who are in crisis or who are experiencing homelessness, complies with the Town’s Zoning Bylaws. Town officials issued a Notice of Violation in October, 2015 and CHT appealed the Town’s claim.

Central to the dispute was whether or not people who access public benefits, services from social service agencies or care from the UVM Medical Center were members of the general public. The bylaws stipulate that hotels and motels must make rooms available to members of the general public. The Shelburne DRB agreed with CHT’s assertion that they were, writing:

"There is no question that Harbor Place's clientele consists of members of the general public who are in need of an affordable place to stay on a temporary basis while looking for permanent housing or recuperating from a medical condition or disability.  CHT's decision to pursue a particular market, a subset of the general public, does not mean that Harbor Place fails or refuses to offer transient lodging accommodations to the general public.

…The Bylaws require that motels offer transient lodging accommodations to the general public, without unlawful discrimination, but do not prevent motels from appealing to particular segments of the general public for business, particularly if the hotel/motel industry underserves that segment of the general public."


Community Meeting Announced on Changes at St. Joseph's School

Posted on Monday, November 21, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

CHT has reached an agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to lease and then purchase the St. Joseph’s School on Allen Street in Burlington’s Old North End. The former Catholic School has been home to Robin’s Nest Children Center, Association of Africans Living in Vermont, and the Janet S. Munt Family Room providing needed services to the community. The purchase will allow these programs to continue in the building along with a new tenant, the City of Burlington’s Parks & Recreation Department.

CHT will host a meeting at the school (20 Allen Street) on November 30 to let the community know about the plans and solicit feedback. The meeting will begin at 5:30 with pizza, with a presentation at 6pm. Old North End residents are encouraged to attend. For more information or to request interpretive services, contact Chris Donnelly.