News

Mixed Results in first year of Building Homes Campaign

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

Governor Phil Scott joined municipal officials, nonprofit leaders, lawmakers and housing developers Wednesday to applaud progress toward meeting residential building targets in Chittenden County, while acknowledging that more needs to be done to increase the number of affordable apartments and for-sale homes available to working people.

The Building Homes Together (BHT) campaign, launched by the Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission in 2016, set a target of 3,500 new homes to be constructed over five years, with 20% of them being permanently affordable. The campaign goals are supported by over 100 community leaders and public officials.

In 2016, Chittenden County saw a net increase of 916 new homes including accessory dwellings, assisted living apartments, apartments and homes for sale. This is nearly twice the average annual production of homes during the past five years. Despite this increase, there were only 69 new affordable homes added in 2016, or 8% of the total.

“The construction of new homes is an important part of our efforts to increase availability of affordable housing statewide, and is great for our economy, employers and citizens. I am pleased to see progress made in Chittenden County, but we have more work to do here and across Vermont,” said Governor Phil Scott. “This data illustrates our continued need for more moderately priced homes to ensure Chittenden County is affordable for low and middle-income Vermonters. I believe the $35 million Housing for All bond I proposed, and the legislature passed, this year will help us make more progress in Chittenden County, and across the state.”

The BHT campaign uses certificate of occupancy data collected directly from municipalities as the basis for the reported numbers. Looking ahead, it appears there will be approximately 360 new rentals added to the market in 2017 with 52 of them affordable. There are no accurate data available to project the number of new homes for sale that will be occupied in 2017.

In 2018, the first affordable homes will be built using the innovative bond funding authorized by the Legislature this year. Nonprofit organizations described willingness to build over 300 affordable homes almost immediately.

“The data show us that, yes, there has been a building boom in Chittenden County this year,” said Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the CCRPC. “However, the July vacancy rate of 2.5% is still lower than we’d like to see for a healthy housing market. Rents also continue to rise at almost 4% a year.”

“There’s an imbalance in the market. We really need an influx of capital if we are truly going to make Chittenden County more affordable,” added Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont.

“We get more than ten applications for every available apartment,” said Brenda Torpy of the Champlain Housing Trust. “If we are going to house our workforce or eliminate homelessness and protect the most vulnerable, the time is now to invest.”

The BHT campaign held their announcement on Market Street in South Burlington, site of the long-planned City Center. Multiple buildings are planned by developer Snyder Homes over the next several years. The first to be built is Allard House, senior housing that will be owned and managed by Cathedral Square. Ground breaking is expected in the next two weeks.

For more information on Building Homes Together, or to sign on to the campaign, please visit: http://www.ecosproject.com/building-homes-together/ or contact Chris Donnelly: chris@champlainhousingtrust.org or (802) 310-0623.

What other officials are saying about the progress and mission of the Building Homes Together campaign:

Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe

“It takes many strategies over many years to make progress on the big stuff like our chronic housing shortage. Several years ago, Ginny Lyons and I worked hard with the South Burlington City team to enable the creation of South Burlington's TIF district. We applaud them for making the vision a reality. Despite criticism from some partisan groups, the Legislature maintained funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board when it was under threat, steadily expanded the Downtown and Village Credit program, funded an innovative down payment assistance program at VHFA, and so much more. Without this foundation in place, the goal of 3,500 new homes would be a pipe dream. It’s important to recognize the critical role public investment plays in meeting community needs.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger

“The road to greater housing affordability and remaining an equitable, diverse community requires both increased housing opportunities for our most vulnerable and getting our land use policies right to encourage much greater production of new homes overall. Burlington is committed to this dual strategy and is grateful for its partnership with the Building Homes Together coalition pushing for the same solutions countywide. With the passage of last year’s Housing For All bond, major projects underway throughout the county, and growing awareness of the importance of increasing Chittenden County homes, this crucial effort has exciting momentum.”

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

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."


Ending Chronic Homelessness

Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, by Chris Donnelly


Last year the Champlain Housing Trust made a commitment to end chronic homelessness in our region. This commitment was grounded in collaboration – working with a variety of partners to solve what has seemed an intractable problem. 

Collectively, we are making good progress, and there's a video below that describes some of this work, or you can click here to go straight to YouTube and see it.

Chronic homelessness declined 31% last year. Already this year, working with the Burlington Housing Authority and others, another 40 individuals or families experiencing homelessness moved into one of CHT's affordable apartments. 

But there’s more to be done. Harbor Place, the motel we've been running since 2013, still provides needed accommodations and services every night to dozens of people who have no other place to turn.

For taxpayers, homelessness is expensive: a study done in San Francisco showed it costs $80,000 each year in a myriad of programs to serve people who are homeless in that city. Providing housing with services costs 56% less – and results in increased stability, dignity and opportunity. 

Out of our efforts, new partnerships have evolved that have similarly shown immediate results, and promise lasting impact. The UVM Medical Center looked at data from the 95 patients they discharged to Harbor Place and documented a savings of almost $1 million in health care costs from these guests, along with a 42% reduction in Emergency Department visits and 68% fewer inpatient admissions. If we can demonstrate this type of result from a motel, we're certain that permanent housing will have even more of an impact. 

Our work with Community Health Centers of Burlington resulted in creating Beacon Apartments in South Burlington, a former motel CHT acquired and converted to 19 apartments for people who have been chronically homeless and with medical vulnerabilities. In the video below, you’ll meet John Graves, a Beacon Apartment resident – and former guest at Harbor Place, who speaks about how he now has a place to store his belongings and can aspire to get work. Safe Harbor provides case management with funding from the UVM Medical Center and Vermont Community Foundation.

Most of us feel compassion for those in need. Many agree there's a moral imperative to help. Even if we ignore these motivations, it's clear new approaches to addressing homelessness are needed. We've been spending more to keep people homeless than it costs to provide a home. 

More than hope, we have confidence. With the partnerships and collaboration underway, tackling big problems like ending chronic homelessness don’t seem so insurmountable anymore.


More than a simple gift of bread

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

Earlier this week 19 loaves of homemade bread arrived at Harbor Place, CHT’s temporary, emergency housing motel in Shelburne. The bread was donated by 4th and 5th grade students of the Renaissance School, made possible through an innovative grant making program of King Arthur Flour called Learn Bake Share. The company donated all the ingredients, and the school incorporated bread-making into their math, science and reading curriculum. 

Students then brought enough ingredients home to bake two loaves – one for their family, and one that they shared with our guests at Harbor Place. "I felt good because I was doing something for a good cause," said one of the kids in the class.

"What a great project," one parent added. "(Our son) was so excited and felt empowered to teach us how to make bread. It was such a great way to spend time as a family."

While the gift of the bread is so generous by itself, all of us at CHT appreciate knowing that the bread was made by families this past weekend with compassion in mind. That makes us even more thankful.

CHT Responds to Safety Concerns at Harbor Place

Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

** UPDATED BELOW ** 

Last night the Shelburne Select Board hosted an open public hearing after hearing from residents about neighborhood safety concerns at Harbor Place, temporary emergency housing with services operated by the Champlain Housing Trust on Shelburne Road. It's clear to us that people in the neighborhood want to feel safer and have compassion for the homeless people that are being served at Harbor Place. We've prepared this letter to demonstrate our commitment to safety for both the neighborhood and the guests at Harbor Place, the steps we've taken and additional ones under consideration. Highlights of the letter include:

  • Harbor Place served almost 600 households in the first year, and because of its services and mission focus, people were twice as likely to find permanent housing than in the motel voucher program.
  • Public safety responses to Harbor Place have decreased by 20% in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
  • Calls are made to the police because we've been asked to report criminal activity, and fugitives have been caught because we've been vigilant.
  • We've heard some rumors that we wish to clear up: we are not buying or looking for another motel to replicate Harbor Place, there has been no prostitution, and local realtors have told us that there has been no negative impact on property values.

Again, we understand the safety concerns from the Hullcrest neighborhood and others, and are committed to addressing them as we can. We want to continue to have an open dialogue with the Town residents and officials. As an additional step towards that goal, we are scheduling tours at Harbor Place: Sunday, May 17 at 10am and Tuesday, May 19 at 5:30pm. Space will be limited, so to reserve a spot please email Chris Donnelly, and let me know which date you'll join. If there is interest, we will schedule additional tours.

UPDATE

We've added two more tour dates: Monday, June 1 at 5:30pm, and Saturday, June 6 at 10am. Space is limited, so please email Chris Donnelly if you plan on attending. Thanks!