Chittenden, Franklin & Grand Isle Counties
"This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution."
As the saying goes when raising children: “It takes a village…,” The same can be said of working to create affordable housing in Vermont. The Loan Fund has many partner organizations with whom we work; the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington is one of our oldest and strongest partners.
CHT was born in 2006 as the result of a merger between the Burlington Community Land Trust and the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation which were both established in 1984. CHT, a membership-based, nonprofit organization committed to creating and preserving perpetually affordable housing and vital communities in northwest Vermont.
Most folks think that “affordable housing” only consists of creating multi-family residential developments or apartment buildings, but in Vermont, with our small towns and villages, it often also takes the form of rehabilitating older single-family homes for sale at an affordable price and in perpetuity. The Champlain Housing Trust is one of many regional housing organizations that specialize in putting families in safe and affordable homes.
Vermonters' need for affordable housing eclipses production annually, creating a persistent shortage of affordable homes. Median home cost in 2011 rose 3% from 2010 with a staggering 64% increase since 2000. To purchase that median-priced home (30-year mortgage with down payment and closing costs), a Vermont household would need an annual income of more than $58,000; 81% of the state's occupations have a median wage below that figure. Furthermore, a persistently high proportion of Vermonters devote too much of their income to housing costs, including heating: 63% of renters and 38% of owners with mortgages pay more than the recommended 30% of their income for housing costs, ranking Vermont the 17th worst state nationally. We also have the 4th-tightest rental housing market in the US. 33,000 renting households are cost burdened, or paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs. This is 48% of all renting Vermonters, ranking the state 7th worst in the nation.
In 2008, VCLF made a loan to CHT to purchase a couple of older single-family residences in Chittenden County. One, near Battery Park in downtown Burlington, has been recently renovated from its original status as a duplex into a roomier, energy efficient single-family home. The 100-year-old home had been through many additions and was not maintained well by its previous owners.
CHT did something they don’t often do with such a property: they bought it outright, made the appropriate renovations and hope to sell it this spring or summer. “Normally we find a buyer first,” explains Rob Leuchs, CHT’s Shared Equity Programs Manager, “but this time we took the risk and bought the property first, thanks to the Loan Fund.” CHT needed capital to make the necessary repairs while keeping the property affordable when it came time to put it on the market.
“The easiest part was working with the VCLF because they are very flexible,” Leuchs says. “This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution.”
Typically, CHT will take the time to find an eligible family for a home or affordable housing community that already exists. “VCLF also helps us buy time so we can find eligible families,” says Community Relations Director Chris Donnelly. “We have literally found hundreds of low- to moderate-income Vermonters directly because of the help we receive from VCLF.”
This partnership impacts families and communities in all corners of our state. “VCLF’s thorough understanding of our work, commitment to our mission and appreciation of our track record makes them a valued partner to us,” says CHT Executive Director Brenda Torpy. “And because of that, people have places to live that are safe, secure and affordable.”