It Didn’t Get Any Better Than That
Wanda Hines knows exactly how to count the years she owned her home on Oak Street in Burlington’s Old North End: she was pregnant with her son at the time.
“My son was born in April of 1998 and we closed on the house the following year,” she describes.
But she had moved into the house years earlier – in 1992 – when it was a duplex and she also adopted and raised her sister’s children there after she died. The home had fallen into foreclosure and the other half was unoccupied. It was going to be sold before Brian Pine, her friend and City employee in the Community and Economic Development Office, connected her to the Burlington Community Land Trust. BCLT was Champlain Housing Trust’s predecessor.
“The land trust was my knight in shining armor,” Wanda says.
The organization helped her and her family find a temporary home in Winooski, and then purchased the duplex out of foreclosure and renovated it to turn it into a single family home. Wanda got a mortgage to buy it through CHT’s shared equity homeownership program that preserves affordability for the long haul.
“I remember I was paying $675 or $650 for rent for that two-bedroom apartment,” she recalls. “And after I bought the whole house, my mortgage was $452 because of the land trust.”
The savings wasn’t the only benefit, she explains. “I now had comfort and security and I was part of the community land trust. It didn’t get any better than that.”
Wanda’s family moved to Burlington in 1963 when she was five years old and settled in the Old North End – one of three Black families in all of the City at the time she remembers – and the neighborhood was her home for sixty years. The home she bought and her relationship with CHT gave her even more of a sense of belonging. “[CHT] just fills a lot of voids in our community. They invite people in, they make the community more accessible for all, and they’re really there for you.”
When her aunt died a year ago, she started thinking about making a move back home to Mississippi to live in the home that her aunt owned, and her grandfather before that. It sits on a country road on thirty acres. But leaving behind her community was hard.
“One thing I loved about being part of CHT was this shared idea of inclusiveness. To not participate in your life is not an option, and the land trust is one of those community leaders that makes participation more possible. It’s enriched me in so many ways.”
Wanda’s participation in her neighborhood and across the City was felt immensely. She was the director of the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf (now Feeding Chittenden), ran the City of Burlington’s Social Equity Investment Project, and recently stepped down as director of the Joint Urban Ministries Project (also known as JUMP). She also served on CHT’s Board as a resident representative. Her commitment to programs that alleviate poverty and building connections in the community improved the lives of so many – and she adds, herself.
And her next stage of life is already underway: in March, 2023 she sold her home to a new owner who is getting the same chance at homeownership that Wanda did 25 years ago. She sat at the transaction closing knowing that while she’s leaving behind a community, the community will still be there for this new owner of the home she loved.
In Mississippi she’s volunteering with Tippah County Good Samaritan Center, lending her expertise on food security and services that help people the most. She’s also thinking about the home and 30 acres that she now lives on and what the future looks like – maybe even finding another community land trust to become connected to as she thinks about her next steps.
“I was always proud to carry the message of the land trust and the homeownership program – my sister-in-law bought a CHT house, too,” she says. “Because of the equity I earned, I’ve been able to move on to my next phase of life in comfort.”