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Advocates Celebrate $4 Million Federal Housing Grant


Published June 28, 2022 at 5:34 p.m.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
Housing advocates on Tuesday celebrated a $4 million federal grant they say should help finance more than 300 affordable housing units in the state.

The competitive grant from the U.S. Treasury Department will nearly double the size of a new fund that the Vermont Housing Finance Agency uses to provide seed money for projects around the state, said Chris Flannery, the organization’s chief financial officer.

“This really puts us on a path toward long-term sustainability,” Flannery told a crowd of housing advocates and elected officials at a South Burlington development where more than 800 homes are planned.

The agency’s Vermont Housing Investment Fund has already received $5.1 million from local charitable organizations and lending institutions since it was formed in 2020. The federal grant will expand the number of low- and no-interest loans the agency can make to housing developers, he said. The agency has sought the grant previously  but this was the first time it has been awarded, he said.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who supported the application, said the challenge of financing, permitting and building affordable homes in the state is so massive that local, state and federal organizations all need to work together to get it done.

“This can only happen when we see the value of cooperation as opposed to conflict,” he said. 
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Tom Getz
The announcement was held at O’Brien Farms in South Burlington, the site of two new affordable housing buildings planned by Summit Properties.

The two buildings will provide 94 units total, 71 of which will be affordable. Of those, 20 will be set aside for the people who have experienced homelessness, said Tom Getz, Summit’s CEO.

The developer had long planned one multi-family affordable building on the site, but the favorable $400,000 loan it received from the fund combined with $4.8 million in federal pandemic recovery funds allowed Summit to double the size of the project, he said.

Though often a small part of the total project cost, the low-interest loans provided by the fund help developers leverage additional funds to make projects viable, said Mia Watson, research coordinator at VHFA.

The fund includes investments from the New England Federal Credit Union and the Vermont Community Foundation.

Getz said his $26 million project will break ground in September and should be finished by the end of 2023.