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.”

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.

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.


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


Bright Street Co-op Update

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, by Jonathan Shenton

A New Housing Option in the Old North End.


Update

We are moving full steam ahead on creating a new, 40-unit housing cooperative on Bright Street. Construction has begun, and our Selection Committee (members of other housing co-ops) is starting to interview applicants.

The way to apply is to attend an orientation and then submit an application; you can find the next orientation dates and register for one via our calendar. Applicants will be considered in date order.

As well as the autonomy, community and security that all co-ops offer, the Bright Street Co-op will provide underground parking, covered bike parking, a community room, and laundry facilities on-site. We are also working with the city to try to create a community garden right next to the co-op.

What is a housing cooperative?

In a housing co-op “the members are the landlord.” It is a business that the members own and run together, doing the work a landlord would do in a rental.

The shared control and responsibility makes co-ops different from either renting or owning your own home. Financially a co-op is more like renting, but the members’ control and responsibility lead to an ‘ownership attitude’ without the financial commitment of buying a home.

Cooperative housing is not for everyone. As an intentional community it is ideal for people with the desire and skills to work with their neighbors and to help create a stable community.

The co-op will feature:

  • Forty apartments and townhomes 
  • A vibrant mix of household sizes and incomes
  • New, energy-efficient construction 
  • Self-management that brings a sense of community and security
  • Underground parking, laundry room, community room, elevator
  • Shared outdoor space

Time frame

  • Construction started in August, 2015; we expect to open in the fall of 2016. 
  • We are taking applications now.

Apartment sizes and approximate monthly charges (heat included):

Thirteen 1BR apartments in the range of $675 to $975/month
Twenty-one 2BR apartments in the range of $780 to $1,250/month
Five 3BR apartments in the range of $975 to $1,350/month
One 4BR apartment in the range of $1,300 to $1,450/month

Interested? To learn more and apply, come to a one-hour Orientation to Cooperatives. 
Register online or with Julia Curry at jcurry@getahome.org or (802) 861-7378.

Seeking Public Input on former Burlington College land

Posted on Tuesday, June 09, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

Your help is needed! CHT is working with Burlington City Community Housing LLC (BCCH), the City of Burlington, the Vermont Land Trust and their constituents in a planning process for potential site designs on 27.65 acres of land BCCH recently purchased from Burlington College. A core part of the process is to solicit the community’s feedback through an online survey and comments, as well as small group and public meetings. Please complete our online questionnaire and join us at our next public meeting on July 7, 2015.

This site is a critical, centrally located parcel, both geographically in the City of Burlington and in the memories of residents. Located west of North Avenue, the site is immediately north of Downtown Burlington and provides a link between the city’s commercial core, the New North End neighborhood, and the Old North End. The site includes approximately 1,200 linear feet of frontage along North Avenue, as well as over 930’ of beachfront just north of Texaco Beach that are accessed by an informal trail. There are 27.65 acres of undeveloped land and 6 acres of land that are occupied by Burlington College. The remainder of the site includes steep slopes, open fields, and forested zones, as well as community gardens.

Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey to tell us what you think!

CHT Celebrates NeighborWorks Week with New Community Garden

Posted on Saturday, June 06, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust was joined by leaders of NeighborWorks America to celebrate the creation of a new community garden at Harrington Village in Shelburne, a brand new neighborhood that opened in the fall of 2014. The creation of the garden was followed by a barbecue for residents and the neighbors. The event kicks-off NeighborWorks Week, where NeighborWorks America and its network of local organizations mobilize tens of thousands of volunteers, businesspeople, neighbors, friends, and local and national elected and civic leaders in a week of neighborhood change and awareness.

“I am so happy to be here in Shelburne with the Champlain Housing Trust, their volunteers and Harrington Village residents to celebrate the beginning of NeighborWorks Week,” said NeighborWorks America’s CEO Paul Weech. “It’s great to see this multi-generational neighborhood coming together for a barbecue, to see the new community gardens where fresh food will be grown, and feel the sense of community that’s building here.”

Volunteers and residents of the apartments at Harrington Village filled in twenty raised beds Saturday morning, and residents began to put in seeds and seedlings in the gardens. The effort was supported by volunteers from the Master Gardener’s program at UVM, and several local businesses contributed supplies or gave a discount to create the gardens, including American Meadows (seeds), Vermont Community Garden Network (seedlings and technical assistance), Lamell Lumber Corp (raised bed lumber), Lowes (garden shed and picnic table), Agways (soil), and Dan Herman (compost tumbler).

NeighborWorks America made a capital grant in support of the development of Harrington Village, which includes 42 affordable family apartments developed by CHT and Housing Vermont, 36 senior apartments developed by Cathedral Square, and four affordable homes built by Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity in collaboration with CHT.

“Harrington Village is a great example of how we do things in Vermont – with a lot of collaboration and partnerships,” said CHT’s CEO, Brenda Torpy. “And today is another demonstration of that ethic, working together to build stronger communities. We’re thrilled to help NeighborWorks America launch their annual week of celebration here in Shelburne.”







Your Input Needed!

Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, by Chris Donnelly

Every five years, the State of Vermont develops a "Consolidated Plan" to submit to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to guide use of approximately $10 million dollars in spending on housing, homelessness, and economic and community development. As part of this process, state officials are seeking public input to develop their plan. They especially would like input from residents of affordable housing or folks who have participated in our rehab loan program. There is a short, anonymous survey that can be filled out online.

Members of the public are also encouraged to attend public hearing at the St. Albans City Council Chambers from 4pm to 6pm on Thursday, December 18. For more information on the State's process and prior plans, visit the Department of Housing and Community Development's webpage.