News

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.

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.

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.


Coalition Launched to Increase Production of Housing

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

Dozens of Chittenden County leaders in the fields of housing, business, local and state government, and social services announced this morning a new campaign to increase the production of housing and setting a target of 3,500 new homes created in the next five years.

The new coalition, called Building Homes Together, was formed by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont and released an initial list of nearly 100 community leaders supporting the effort. Several leaders shared words of support.

“Working together we will accomplish this goal,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. “For the sake of our communities, our workers and local economy, we will educate and advocate together for more housing.”

The housing shortage in Chittenden County has been well noted with unhealthy vacancy rates and high rents,” added Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. “Employers can’t find workers, and workers themselves spend more time in commutes and with a higher percentage of their paychecks on housing costs.”

Twenty percent of the 3,500 goal are targeted to be developed by nonprofit housing organizations. The remainder by private developers.

“This step-up in production will not just provide new homes and infrastructure for communities, it’ll be a boost to the economy and contribute to the tax base. Building homes together is a big win for all of us in Chittenden County,” said Nancy Owens, President of Housing Vermont.

The campaign will provide up-to-date data to the community on the need for and benefits of new housing, build cross-sector and public support for housing development, increasing access to capital, and supporting municipalities.

Individuals, businesses or organizations that wish to sign on and participate in the campaign are encouraged to by sending an email to Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust. 

Building Homes Together Infographic

List of supporters (as of June 26, 2016)

What others are saying about Building Homes Together


CHT Purchases Ethan Allen Apartments from UVM

Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust announced today that it has purchased the Ethan Allen Apartments in Essex from the University of Vermont. The property, with 31 apartments in 11 buildings, was sold for $3.9 million.

“We are excited to acquire this property, and appreciate UVM’s desire to work with us to eventually create more affordable homeownership opportunity,” said Michael Monte, chief operating and financial officer for CHT.

The organization will offer existing tenants an opportunity to sign a new lease in June. Eventually, 19 of the 31 apartments will slowly be converted to affordable homeownership through CHT’s shared equity program.

The remaining twelve apartments will remain for rent, and will provide future flexibility for CHT to address affordable housing needs for people in need.

"Champlain Housing Trust have been ideal partners to work with on the sale of Ethan Allen Apartments,” said Annie Stevens, Vice Provost for Student Affairs at UVM. “We know that Champlain Housing Trust will be excellent stewards of this property and that they are committed to providing a smooth transition for the student residents and their families as well as assistance for their ongoing affordable housing needs.”

CHT is receiving financing for the purchase through Community Housing Capital, a national Community Development Financial Institution which serves as a direct lender to members of the NeighborWorks America network, like CHT. Most recently, Community Housing Capital financed a similar rental-to-homeownership initiative of CHT’s in Burlington’s south end. The university is also financing a portion of the sale.

A Love Letter

Posted on Friday, February 13, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

The other day a man named Robert came into our office and gave us a note and a single red rose. The note was addressed to the staff, boards and donors of the Champlain Housing Trust, COTS, Burlington Housing Authority, and CVOEO. Robert was housed at Harbor Place for a period last winter, and now he lives in one of our affordable apartments in Burlington.

His note is a reminder of both the challenges people face, and the transformative nature of our work. Here's what Robert wrote: 

A love letter because of – You! 

Last winter I felt like I was going to freeze to death in my car, this winter I am alive and have a home of my own. 

Last winter I lived second to second, this winter I live day to day, month to month. 

Last winter I was cold, this winter I am warm. 

Last winter I was in the hospital ER 3 times, this winter no trips to the ER. 

Last winter I was living in my car, this winter I have a home. 

Last winter I was hungry, this winter I am well fed and helping to feed others. 

Last winter I did not have a bed to sleep in, this winter I do!

Last winter I was frightened every day of my life, this winter I am at peace most days. 

Last winter I was unhappy and wanted to give up, last winter and this winter you did not let me give up. 

Last winter I felt alone in the world, this winter I have people that care about me. 

Last winter my own family gave up on me, this winter you never gave up on me. 

Last winter I was sick, this winter I am getting healthier and getting stronger every day. 

Last winter I had no purpose, this winter I have purpose. 

Last winter I had no community, this winter I am part of the community. I belong! 

Last winter I needed help, this winter I am helping others. 

Last winter I was helpless, this winter I am helpful. 

Last winter I had no hope for the future, this winter I have hope for the future. 

Last winter I took a shower once a month, this winter I shower every day. 

Last winter I had wet dirty clothes, this winter I have dry clean clothes. 

Last winter my shoes were wet and cold, this winter my shoes are dry and warm. 

Last winter I felt unsafe every day, this winter I feel very safe. 

I can never repay all that your organizations, staff have done for me, but I can say I love you all for saving my life, and giving me a new life worth living. Thank you for making all of this possible and more. 

I will never forget your kindness and compassion during a difficult time in my life.

A New Challenge

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

We know that decent, safe and affordable housing is a key factor in determining health and well-being, both on an individual basis but also in our neighborhoods. We know this is true with people who are homeless, and that the chronically homeless present a special challenge in the provision of health care and supportive services.

We need to expand the supply of affordable housing with supportive services in a variety of settings that work.

In order to address this issue, the CHT has issued itself a challenge: create 40 homes with services for the chronically homeless and 30 homes for homeless families. To succeed, we will need to partner with several community agencies and funders. Our newest initiatve to meet this challenge is Beacon Apartments, a repurposed motel in South Burlington to provide permanent housing with services for 19 chronically homeless single adults who are medically vulnerable. Our partners on this effort are the Safe Harbor Clinic of the Community Health Centers of Burlington, and the Burlington Housing Authority.

Housing and the Economy

Posted on Saturday, November 08, 2014, by Chris Donnelly

When we think of affordable housing, we often think of the benefits that people living there receive: a secure, safe place to live that meets their budget and where they can set and achieve their goals. But there's a significant economic impact from which we all benefit -- jobs, sales and payroll taxes, local economic development and vibrant communities.

In Housing and the Economy: The Statewide Ripple Effect, we tell this story of how affordable housing development and preservation adds value to the bottom line, with real examples from communities across the state. It's the fifth and final in our series of papers describing the intersection of housing with other public policy priorities.

(photo credit: Sally McKay)

 

 

Affordable Homes' Impact on Health

Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014, by Chris Donnelly

In the second of a series of papers on how affordable housing impacts other pieces of our lives, the connection between health and housing is becoming better understood. In Housing and Health: The Importance of Place, we delve into some of these impacts. As Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., and Deborah Frank, M.D. write, "For many of our patients, a safe, decent, affordable home is like a vaccine—it literally keeps children healthy.”

For more information on this series of papers, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont.

Photo credit: CC image Older man and nurse using blood pressure by Tunstall on Flickr [cropped]

Impact of Housing on Kids and Education

Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2014, by Chris Donnelly

Student Writing.jpg

new paper was released today that highlights the intersection of affordable housing and education, and the benefits that an affordable home provides kids in terms of their ability to learn in school. In the report, Rebecca Haslam, an elementary school teacher, is quoted saying, "Kids experiencing housing challenges feel disconnected from their communities, which is even more damaging to their ability to access the academics... they're just not ready." 

 Housing and Education: Putting the Pieces Together is the first in a series of papers on the value affordable housing offers the people and communities across the State of Vermont. For more information, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont.  

(Photo credit: CC image Student Writing 2002 by cybrarian77 on Flickr)