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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

OUR HOMES, OUR VOICES

THE CAMPAIGN FOR HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FUNDING

Information sheet produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Click on Picture for a Full View
OurHomes-OurVoices7-2017

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 www.housingdata.org. 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.

 

Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Will Use $35 Million in Bond Funds to Address Vermont’s Housing Shortage

Passing this Vermont Housing and Conservation Board  press release forward from A Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition news item.

PRESS RELEASE
June 28, 2017
Contact: Gus Seelig, Executive Director, 828-3251, gus@vhcb.org
Jen Hollar, Director of Policy and Special Projects: cell: 793-7346; Jennifer@vhcb.org

The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board will use $35 million in new funding for the creation of rental housing and home ownership opportunities for 550-650 low- and moderate-income Vermonters over the next two to three years. The bold, new initiative represents the largest state investment in housing in more than a decade.  It was first proposed by Governor Phil Scott in his January budget address, gained strong support in the legislature, and was signed into law today.

Governor Scott said, “When workers are unable to find adequate, affordable housing, economic growth is constrained. Vermont has a very low rate of rental vacancy and we need to increase access to homeownership. This effort will ratchet up the production of new housing to serve households at a wide range of incomes, spur economic growth, create jobs, and have a significant impact on Vermont’s supply of housing.”

Tim Ashe, President Pro Tempore of the Vermont Senate, said, “I’ve seen the housing shortage up close. In my time at Cathedral Square, we’d fill up new buildings within hours. Literally. So when I met with Governor Scott in November and we both expressed a strong interest in seeing more housing supply, I knew it was a matter of how we’d do it, not if we’d do it. I want to thank Senators Mullin, Sirotkin, Balint, Baruth, and Clarkson and Representative Head and her team for their hard work to see it to the finish line.”

Helen Head, Chair of the Vermont House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, said, “Vermont’s housing crunch has been well-documented. According to a study commissioned by the legislature last summer, we can reduce homelessness dramatically with a targeted approach, creating more housing with support services along with housing for the lowest income households. Middle income households also struggle to find housing. This housing initiative will address the needs of a wide range of Vermonters and we’re proud to support it.”

Gus Seelig, Executive Director of VHCB, said, “We appreciate the support of the Governor and the Legislative Leadership in advancing this exciting initiative.  The first 100 homes should be under construction across the state before the end of the year.”

The bond funds will be matched with state, federal, and private sources to leverage approximately $2-$3 for every one dollar of bond funds, resulting in $70-100 million in additional resources for housing development. Spending on affordable housing yields multiple benefits across the economy. The $35 million housing bond will also act as a stimulus package, generating millions of dollars of economic activity through the creation of jobs and the purchase of goods. At least 25% of the housing will be targeted to households with incomes below $35,000 and another 25% will be targeted to middle-income Vermonters earning $55,000-$83,000 annually (for 4-person households). The balance of the funds will be awarded to projects based on community needs, applications received and the availability of resources for leverage.

“Every night, our shelter, just like shelters across the state, is full of people who need and deserve a home,” said Sara Kobylenski, Executive Director of the Upper Valley Haven, based in White River Junction. “We have allowed ourselves to slide into an alarming housing deficit, and the most vulnerable people in our communities are suffering for it. The housing bond is a timely investment that will improve the lives of many Vermonters.”

“Housing construction is critical piece of our economic engine, and this proposal promises to create hundreds of good paying jobs. It’s also vital to employers who say time and time again how hard it is for their employees or prospective employees to find adequate, affordable housing,” said Tom Torti, President and CEO of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS).

In collaboration with the Department of Housing and Community Development, VHCB is gathering input on the highest priority housing needs and potential projects in regional meetings across the state. VHCB will be accepting applications and funding developments for the construction and rehabilitation of rental housing and single-family homes with an emphasis on creating new homes.

The revenue bond will be issued by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. It is expected to yield $33-34 million in proceeds and will be paid by a $2.5 million in annual revenue from the property transfer tax over 20 years, through 2039.

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Sources: The Vermont Futures Project of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, January 2017; Roadmap to End Homelessness, The Corporation for Supportive Housing, December 2016; Vermont’s Statewide Housing Needs Assessment by Bowen National Research, 2014
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VHCB makes loans and grants for the creation of affordable housing and the conservation of agricultural and recreational lands, forest land, natural areas and historic properties. www.vhcb.org

Read this synopsis of the Housing Revenue Bond Initiative.

Read more about the Governor’s budget and the housing bond from the Burlington Free Press.

 

As the Arctic Icebergs Melt, So Does Political Opposition to Housing [in some places anyway]

This article is in Rooflines – The Shelterforce Blog

  Posted in Rooflines by Randy Shaw on June 20, 2017

“On June 13, San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee signed HOME SF into law. The district supervisor-sponsored measure will add 16,000 housing units in the next two decades, 5,000 of which will be affordable.”

“On that night in Berkeley, a large turnout of pro-housing activists stopped the Berkeley City Council’s plans to halt new housing. In response to grassroots pressure, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin announced before the meeting that the agenda item promoting downzoning was “greatly misunderstood” and that the city ‘cannot put roadblocks in the way of new housing.’”

But the tide has turned. People are battling the politics of exclusion. They recognize that while artificially restricting the housing supply is great for profiting those who already own property, it’s not so good for those paying sky-high rents or who have been priced out of the city altogether. As Supervisor Katy Tang stated at the signing ceremony for HOME SF, if San Francisco ‘does not continue to provide affordable housing for our middle income households, they will continue to leave and we will no longer have a middle class.’”

Emphasis added by the Thriving Communities blog editor.

Read the Full Article in Roofline

NOTE: The photo posted with this blog was posted by the Thriving Communities blog editor and was not posted by Shelterforce.

THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTIONS OF NEW AMERICANS TO CHITTENDEN COUNTY, VERMONT

CHAMPLAIN VALLEY OFFICE OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY (CVOEO) RELEASES STUDY SHOWING “THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTIONS OF NEW AMERICANS TO CHITTENDEN COUNTY, VERMONT

From CVOEO Press Release, June 12, 2017 

Sudershan Adhikari, a Nepalese refugee used to teach math and science before coming to the United States. He says Vermont didn’t give him a hand out so much as an opportunity, for which he is grateful.
Photo Credit: Nina Keck / Vermont Public Radio.

 New Americans contribute significantly to Chittenden County’s housing values, GDP, and job market according to a new report released by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO). The release of this report will be announced by Ali Dieng, CVOEO board member, with Jan Demers, CVOEO Executive Director, and Alex Duchac, author of the study, will both speak.

Produced for CVOEO by Alex Duchac, this report will give the first detailed look at how immigrants impact Vermont’s largest county. The report documents the wide range of benefits provided by New Americans in Chittenden County. Among the significant discoveries included in the report are that, since 2009, New Americans have increased home values by $25M, they have added over $712M to the GDP of Chittenden County, and they have saved more than 270 Vermont manufacturing jobs.

The complete report, detailing many positive impacts, can be viewed > HERE.
PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT EVENT:      
WHEN: 3:00 pm, June 15, 2017   
WHERE:Flynn Center for the Performing Arts(just prior to Parent University Graduation at 3:30)
CONTACT: Joan White, Development Director CVOEO. joanwhite@cvoeo.org; 
802-862-2771 ext.744
 

“Changes to Tax Credit Criteria Breaking Up Concentrated Poverty in New Jersey”

Important steps for affirmatively furthering fair housing – good work by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA)
“These Changes to Tax Credit Criteria Are Breaking Up Concentrated Poverty” [a New Jersey example]

Posted by Tim Evans in Rooflines, The Shelterforce blog, June 13, 2017 edition. This excerpt copied with permission of the National Housing Institute

While recent news reports have highlighted the low number of affordable housing projects using federal tax credits that are built in high-opportunity areas, a recent examination by New Jersey Future has found that strategic changes in the way federal funds are allocated for affordable housing in the state have meant that many more affordable housing projects have been directed away from high-poverty neighborhoods and toward areas that offer greater economic opportunity.

To evaluate whether those changes had their intended effect, New Jersey Future compared affordable housing projects that received federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits between 2005 and 2012 with projects that received credits between 2013 and 2015, after the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA), which administers the tax credits in the state, made significant changes to the criteria it uses to award them. The agency made the changes with the specific goal of steering new construction of affordable housing away from areas of concentrated poverty and toward areas where public transit and major job centers existed, and that have higher-performing school districts.

Before the adjustment, a full two-thirds of projects near transit were located in . . .

Read More

Affordable Housing Is Out of Reach for Low -Wage Vermonters

June 8, 2017

BURLINGTON, VT – In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in Vermont, renters need to earn$21.90 an hour, or $45,545 a year. This is Vermont’s  2017Housing Wage, revealed in the annual Out of Reach report released today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. At Vermont’s current minimum wage, individuals would need to work 88 hours per week, or 2.2 full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental home.

 Read the full Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition press release.

 

 

Why Chittenden County Still Needs More Housing

My Turn,  From the Burlington Free Press

” … we applaud efforts in Montpelier and are excited to work with local municipalities that want to make bold investments in affordable housing, realizing that such investments are winners in accomplishing Governor Scott’s three priorities: supporting our economy, making Vermont more affordable for Vermonters, and protecting our most vulnerable community members. Several proposals have been made – we welcome all efforts that satisfy each of these three objectives.”

by Michael Monte

There seems to be a burst of housing construction in Chittenden County, and some are even suggesting that the tide has turned in making the rental market more affordable, or that the vacancy rate is high enough, or we’re building too fast. At the Champlain Housing Trust, our assessment is that although the trend line is improving, more needs to be done – especially for low wage earners priced out of the market, and certainly for the 350 people on any given night in the county who have no home at all.

According to Mark Brooks, co-author of a report that provides a comprehensive semi-annual analysis of the real estate market, the long-term market vacancy rate in Chittenden County is 2%.  The December, 2016 report indicated a market vacancy of 4.4% – a number offered as a point-in-time rate of what’s available without taking in consideration the timing of apartments just completing construction or other factors.

This lower rate is a more accurate assessment, as it takes into account the time in which newly-constructed apartments are absorbed into the market.  Most will agree that a 5% rate will yield a healthy market for renters and owners alike. While we were close at a point in time in December, we’ve not sustainably reached this target.

In the last two years alone, over 1,200 apartments have been constructed. The new construction does give some renters more choices: according to the report, “…landlords are offering incentives such as one month free rent, flexible lease terms, or lower rents.” Rent rates across the board have been stable and closer in-line with inflation – unlike the previous six years.

New households are forming every day in Chittenden County, and large numbers of people are still commuting long distances from less expensive housing in more rural counties to get to work. In fact, in 2002, 73% of Chittenden County workers lived in the county; that percentage dropped to 63% in 2014. Lack of housing opportunity is leading more and more workers to commute longer distances.

Demand is still high as younger people, sometimes saddled with high college debt, are renting instead of purchasing a new home. And employers are still viewing rents and housing availability as being barriers to economic growth. A representative of one business told us recently that her company added jobs in the mid-west instead of Burlington because of the lack of housing.

In order to push the underlying market rate from 2% to a sustained 5%, we need to continue to provide additional growth. Can we sustain this growth and increase the vacancy rate in the future? We hope so. But next year fewer apartments are on track to be coming on line, less than half the number built this year. And although there are an additional 2,400 apartments in the development pipeline county-wide, those won’t be here next year, or even the year after that.

Charlie Baker, executive director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, part of a coalition launched in 2016 that will try to bring about the construction of 3,500 housing units in Chittenden county over the next five years. Peter Hirschfield / VPR

As importantly, the resources available for affordable housing are seriously limited. Although there is enormous opportunity and capacity to build more affordable housing, the equity or cash needed to insure that rents remain affordable are not available. Non-profit owners continue to struggle with meeting the demand for more affordable housing, as evidenced by long waiting lists for subsidized housing or the 150 applications CHT gets every month for the 20-25 apartments available.

That’s why we applaud efforts in Montpelier and are excited to work with local municipalities that want to make bold investments in affordable housing, realizing that such investments are winners in accomplishing Governor Scott’s three priorities: supporting our economy, making Vermont more affordable for Vermonters, and protecting our most vulnerable community members. Several proposals have been made – we welcome all efforts that satisfy each of these three objectives.

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Michael Monte, is Chief Operations & Financial Officer at The Champlain Housing Trust, founded in 1984, it is the largest community land trust in the country. Throughout Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, CHT manages 2,200 apartments, stewards 565 owner-occupied homes in its signature shared-equity program, offers homebuyer education and financial fitness counseling, provides services to five housing cooperatives, and offers affordable energy efficiency and rehab loans. In 2008, CHT won the prestigious United Nations World Habitat Award, recognizing its innovative, sustainable programs.