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Affordable housing advocates foresee $15 million drop in investment due to tax reform | True North Reports

By Briana Bocelli,
a freelance writer for True North Reports. 12/6/17
Symbolic picture of home built on money stacks
Image courtesy of Flickr

“The House and Senate tax bills could be detrimental to an already struggling affordable housing situation in Vermont, according to estimates released by the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.”

Continue reading Affordable housing advocates foresee $15 million drop in investment due to tax reform | True North Reports

“Not very many options for the people who are working here…”

A Paper from CARSEY RESEARCH: University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy,  Fall 2017, Jessica A. Carson and Marybeth J. Mattingly

Rural Housing Challenges Through the Lens of Two New England Communities

 “In this brief, [Jessica A. Carson and Marybeth J. Mattingly] use interview and focus group data to describe some of the ways that restricted rural housing stock affects working families in two rural New England counties, and explore solutions proposed by rural residents and experts to make housing affordable …

“Subsidies and publicly funded programs can play a part in alleviating the challenges of affordable rural housing, but  addressing the issue of affordable housing in rural places will require a variety of approaches. For instance, at the local level, residents can encourage local zoning and planning boards to align town regulations with “inclusionary zoning” practices, such as requiring a certain percentage of housing units to meet affordability standards and offering incentives to developers for constructing affordable dwellings. Municipalities might also loosen or alter zoning restrictions to reduce lot size requirements and allow construction of structures other than traditional single-family
dwellings, including duplexes, in-law apartments, backyard cottages, townhouses, or bungalow courts.”

Trickle Up Housing: Filtering Does Go Both Ways – Shelterforce

Building homes for extremely low-income people allows other homes to filter up to people in need—a better bet than waiting for luxury units to trickle down.

Author, Miriam Axel-Lute – November 2, 2017

“There’s a lot of talk about how homes will “filter down.” The argument goes that building new luxury housing will allow the wealthiest people to move into new housing, and (if the supply outstrips demand), eventually what had been high-end housing will command less money and will “filter down” to be affordable to lower income levels. Just how well this works, for whom, and how quickly is the subject of muchdebate, which I won’t wade into right now.”

“But here’s the thing we don’t talk about enough: developing affordable housing in a tight, high-cost market also increases overall affordability through filtering! Just in the other direction—it trickles up.”

Source: Trickle Up Housing: Filtering Does Go Both Ways – Shelterforce   Click the link to read the whole story on the Shelterforce site.

Integration—We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong – Shelterforce

At #Brownat60 Rally, 2014. Photo credit: AFGE via flickr, CC BY 2.0

The American approach to racial integration has been done all wrong, and it has had a disastrous effect on African Americans.

Article published in SHELTERFORCE by Pete Saunders – November 10, 2017

Source: Integration—We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong – Shelterforce

Photo by techne via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Easing Burlington’s Housing Shortage, Opinion by Erhard Mahnke

(This piece first appeared on the Burlington Free Press opinion page on September 20, 2017)

Safe, stable and affordable housing is essential for a community to thrive economically, socially and culturally. Vermont continues to struggle with housing affordability, and unfortunately the state’s largest city of Burlington is no exception.

A Burlington resident needs to earn over $26 an hour to afford the fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment – that’s more than $5 per hour above the national average.

This is troubling and we hear about the ramifications from families and seniors who can’t find places to live, from young people who are choosing to leave the state for more affordable areas, from agencies serving the homeless, and from our employers who struggle to find qualified employees due to the high cost of housing.

There are several components to addressing the issue of affordable housing, and one of the most critical is the need for capital investment to build new housing and to renovate existing properties. While many additional homes have been built over the past several years, many more are needed to accommodate the growth of 2,375 new households projected for Chittenden County by 2020. Current production is being absorbed into the market quickly, and the long-term vacancy rate for rentals still hovers between 1 and 2 percent, putting supply and demand out of whack.

Not surprisingly, according to Census data, over half of Chittenden County renters are “cost-burdened,” meaning they pay too much of their income for housing, leaving them without enough for other basic necessities.

In terms of affordable housing, last month the Champlain Housing Trust had just five vacancies among their 2,000 plus apartments, and only one vacancy in Chittenden County. Cathedral Square Corp. had over 800 seniors and people with special needs on its waiting list looking to move into affordable housing.

Furthermore, the effective vacancy rate for subsidized rentals in Chittenden County was literally 0 percent for all bedroom sizes. These shocking numbers help explain why the Burlington Housing Authority typically measures their waiting list in years rather than weeks or even months.

These numbers are astonishing, but the good news is that there are clear steps we can take to address the cost of housing. No one project will be the panacea for Burlington’s affordable housing crisis, but developments like the proposed Cambrian Rise project in Burlington’s North End can significantly improve housing options for residents and relieve the pressure on a strained system.

As proposed, Cambrian Rise will be a 739-apartment mixed-income housing neighborhood with an impressive number of affordable homes. The neighborhood will offer Burlington residents housing options for all income levels.

Under Burlington’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, the development will include 128 affordable rentals for families and seniors with household incomes of less than 65 percent of the Chittenden County median income. In English that translates into housing that is affordable for a one-person household making $37,500, or $53,600 for a family of four.

However, with federal, state and local dollars available to Champlain Housing Trust and Cathedral Square, which are partnering to help create Cambrian Rise, many apartments will be even more affordable.

Furthermore, another 60 homes will be affordable to homebuyers earning below 75 to 80 percent of median income, or below at most $46,150 for a single individual and $65,900 for a family of four. In all, the development will offer 188 permanently affordable homes to low income Vermonters. In addition, Cambrian Rise will offer “workforce housing” for sale and rent targeted to more moderate income people up to 120 percent of the median income. Our working families, our seniors and people with disabilities, and our employers desperately need these new homes.

Cambrian Rise not only offers a diverse neighborhood, it is also a model for sustainable development. The project features alternative transportation options, energy efficiency, a state of the art stormwater system to protect the lake, and a conserved 12-acre public park – giving us continuous public access to Lake Champlain from Perkins Pier to North Beach.

Convenient access to the bike path, car share opportunities and a heated bus terminal for year-round use will ease the financial burden for residents of the neighborhood. This mixed-use development is a model for the future, where diverse residents of all income levels, abilities and ages can live, work and play in one neighborhood.

Erhard Mahnke, of Burlington, is coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition is a partner organization in the Thriving Communities- Building a Vibrant Inclusive Vermont campaign.

“An Economic Fair Housing Act” An Excellent Article by, Richard D. Kahlenberg

The Thriving Communities campaign highly recommends to our blog readers the very good article by Richard D. Kahlenberg, which was featured in the latest edition of “Poverty & Race”newsletter (July – September, 2017, Volume 26: Number 3);  published by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

“An Economic Fair Housing Act” PRRAC Poverty & Race Newsletter, July-September 2017 

Kay Campbell /

We encourage you to read this if you are interested in  affirmatively furthering fair housing, decreasing geographic segregation by race and poverty, and increasing many opportunities for people now trapped in low opportunity neighborhoods in our nation.

“… worsening housing segregation by class is extremely troubling, because it affects the lives of Americans in profound ways. Where people live affects so much else in their lives— access to transportation, employment opportunities, access to decent health care, and, perhaps most important, access to good schools. …”


Nonprofit – For-profit Alliances Can Work In Fair Housing Advocacy as Well as Housing Development


Working in a non-profit organization, and often working most directly on public policy and advocacy issues with people in other non-profit or governmental entities, I can easily lose sight of some aspects of the universe of for-profit businesses. I recently started thinking more about how much overlap and shared common interests that my work as an advocate for affordable and inclusive housing has with at least some private for-profit housing developers.  We both are often striving for zoning by-laws that permit a higher density of homes, narrower setback requirements, more flexible parking requirements and simpler-more predictable permitting processes among a myriad of other related things.

My primary aim is to create more homes at rental and sale prices that are more affordable to more people in a state with very high housing costs and housing shortages in many places. I know that a more or less planned increasing supply of homes especially in combination with various public subsidies can generate at least some housing that is affordable to people on the lower ends of the income scale. I also know that because of the fact that more people in certain fair housing protected classes tend to have lower incomes and that developing more affordable and accessible homes will increase housing opportunities for people in protected classes. The flip side is that shortages of housing supply, overdevelopment of high end housing on large lot sizes, and long uncertain and unnecessarily daunting and expensive permitting processes will tend to increase the price of homes and that tends to disparately exclude— whether purposely or not—  people in protected classes such as many minorities, people with disabilities, and others. My goal is creating more inclusive and less expensive homes and communities, and not creating more exclusive and more expensive homes and communities.

Achieving more of the goals of inclusivity will create conditions that are beneficial to large sectors of our towns and cities—including businesses that need more workers, more shoppers and more consumers of services. Governmental entities will be in better shape also with a broader tax base to help maintain needed services.

To get to a state of increased inclusion and affordability will require some willingness to change some bylaws that have been around for a long time and if they ever had a good purpose do not do so now in our current society and economy. It is in the work of achieving some of these changes that I have come to realize that advocates of fair, affordable and safe homes have good opportunities to collaborate with private developers.

To this end our Fair Housing Project has pulled together some private developers, currently mostly in the Chittenden County, Vermont area, to join forces with us to work on some of those things we agree on and to perhaps mitigate some of the areas of disagreement that we will no doubt have.

Getting stuck in our own limited world view does not help us make real progress in our communities. We can break out of that mode.

Borrowed from “SHELTERFORCE” -10 Ways to Talk About Inclusionary Housing, Differently

Shelterforce blog by Sasha Hauswald – September 20, 2017

…  Number 4 is one of my favorite. (Thriving Communities Editor)

” 4.  Streamline barriers to development

Many jurisdictions have zoning code requirements that are so complex that it is nearly impossible to build anything without lengthy and unpredictable approval processes for special exceptions to the zoning code. Inclusionary done right can greatly reduce procedural barriers to new development.

Affordable housing requirements are often adopted in combination with area-wide up-zoning or enhanced flexibility to build, by right, a reasonably profitable multifamily building. In these cases, inclusionary housing programs can actually increase development activity. Most importantly, inclusionary housing policies establish clear and predictable expectations that local developers can plan around. “

Important Federal Funding Facts About Housing in America



Information sheet produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Click on Picture for a Full View

Housing news from Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), New improved Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing goes live

New improved Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing goes live

Posted in VHFA News by: Leslie Black-Plumeau on June 30, 2017 – 8:54am

Based on feedback from property managers and apartment seekers, VHFA launched this week a redesigned, user-friendly Vermont Directory of Affordable Rental Housing at We improved search tools and expanded the site to include more information people looking for an apartment need, such as rent and income limits, property photos, proximity to public transportation, accessibility features and pet policies.       Development of the new website was supported in part by TD Charitable Foundation, AARP Vermont and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s HUD Inclusive and Vibrant Communities Vermont Grant.

The site’s on-line directory, updated in real-time by property managers, provides information about every Vermont apartment building that serves lower income tenants and received public subsidies during its development to help rents be affordable. “We are delighted to offer expanded information about vacancies and the status of the wait-list for occupancy in Vermont’s affordable, rental housing stock,” remarked VHFA Executive Directory Sarah Carpenter.  “Since vacancies are snapped up quickly in many parts of the state, we wanted to optimize the site’s ability to connect lower income apartment seekers to the information they need to find an affordable place to live.” Carpenter continued.

Housing managers and owners with questions or comments about the website are encouraged to contact VHFA.