One Step At A Time

Embarking on a new adventure as members of CHT’s newest housing cooperative

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[story written in 2016]

Bree LeMay is no stranger to the Champlain Housing Trust. Having lived in a CHT apartment for the past seven years, she and her 6-year-old son, Niah, are embarking on a new adventure as members of CHT’s newest housing cooperative on Bright Street in Burlington’s Old North End.

While their move isn’t a drastic change in location (their apartment is just a short walk away), it’s a step in a new direction that comes with more responsibility. Members of housing co-ops are their own landlords – they work together to keep their property and community running well. For Bree, it’s a chance for her to learn about what kind of responsibilities come with owning a house – a dream she hopes, in time, will become a reality.

“I see the co-op as a stepping stone, a middle ground between renting and owning. It’s a chance for me to learn about maintenance and upkeep and everything that goes into owning a house,” she explains.

The prospect of owning her own home is something Bree has been thinking about for a while. Three years ago she took CHT’s Homebuyer Education class, a day-long workshop that explains the ins and outs of owning a house. Unfortunately, despite working full time as she raises her son, Bree finds herself still having a hard time affording the rental housing costs in the area.

She hopes one day she’ll be ready. In the meantime, she considers herself lucky. Her new apartment feels “like owning my own place,” and is close to everything. With an open floor plan, she’s working on filling up the space with mid-century décor. Niah’s school is within walking distance, and as a self-proclaimed “foodie,” Bree loves that they have a variety of local, hip restaurants nearby.

“The Old North End has so much potential. It’s already changed so much, and it’s slowly getting rid of the stigma that it used to have. Developments like this one are huge for that.”

While it’s only been a mere two months since they moved into their new place, Bree says she and Niah quickly felt part of the Bright Street community. Niah goes to school with several other kids at the co-op, and they’ve met many of their neighbors through various community events – including a ribbon cutting ceremony where HUD Secretary Juliàn Castro, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Mayor Miro Weinberger were in attendance.

The co-op members plan to begin meeting in January to divvy up their responsibilities and discussing goals and priorities. Bree is hoping to be part of the gardening team, and says that although she’s not too knowledgeable about gardening yet, she’s excited to learn. With the assistance of Vermont Community Garden Network, the co-op members plan to coordinate workshops beginning in the springtime to encourage residents to make the most of the garden beds on the property.

Their place is slowly becoming their own – a place where Niah can be free to sort through his collection of Pokémon cards as he pleases and a space to display their unique and hilariously-themed Christmas cards that everyone in their family looks forward to. With so many good things on the horizon, Bree and Niah are thankful for the help they have received from CHT.

“CHT is such a source of comfort. I know with their help that it is possible to achieve my goal of owning my own place eventually. They give me help and hope.”