Credit Union Pledges $ 6 Million Donation to Help Alleviate Housing Crisis in Vermont

Construction workers are renovating the old Baymont Hotel in Essex into rental apartments on October 23, 2020. File photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

Chittenden County has been the focal point of a statewide affordable housing crisis for years, if not decades.

The New England Federal Credit Union says it wants to help.

Giant checks and everything, Credit Union President John Dwyer has announced plans to hand over $ 6 million to two established housing agencies in a bid to alleviate the crisis.

At a press conference Thursday, Dwyer pledged $ 3 million to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, a nonprofit helping low- and moderate-income Vermonters, to encourage home ownership. affordable home ownership and creating multi-family rental properties.

An additional $ 3 million will go to the Champlain Housing Trust to support home ownership for Blacks, Aboriginals and people of color in the northwestern part of the state.

At the same time, the credit union is rolling out its own program to reduce barriers to home ownership by providing down payments and mortgage insurance.

Dwyer said the credit union believes the impact of its resources will be amplified by directing funds to two groups it has worked with previously.

“These are the experts,” he said.

While the housing crisis in Vermont has been going on for a long time, the pandemic has highlighted the struggle to find a place to live in Green Mountain State and what that means for residents, old and new. Chittenden County is experiencing an all-time high of vacant rental housing, and affordable housing is so limited that waiting lists for subsidized housing have stretched into the thousands.

The 2020-25 Housing Needs Assessment from the State Trade and Community Development Agency indicated that housing stock growth has slowed over the past 40 years. In addition, house prices have increased at a rapid rate, and nearly 50% of Vermonters are “burdened with housing costs”, having to spend 30% or more of their income to keep a roof over their heads. .

While the housing crisis affects many Vermonters, there is a disproportionate effect on BIPOC households, according to the Champlain Housing Trust.

“If you’re white in Vermont, you’re almost three times more likely to own a home than if you’re black,” said Michael Monte, managing director of the Housing Trust.

” It is not a coincidence. This stems from this country’s heritage of housing policies which secretly and openly discriminates against blacks, ”he said at the press conference. “With these funds, we will work to remedy this injustice.”

In an effort to lower barriers to home ownership, the Vermont Housing Finance Agency said it plans to launch a pilot program to build affordable housing for middle-income families with an emphasis on location housing in economic centers.

“Homeownership creates equity, which is the biggest asset of the middle class,” said Maura Collins, executive director of the housing finance agency. “If we hope to emerge from this pandemic with stronger, more equitable communities, we must make affordable housing a priority. ”

Dwyer pointed out that as the state’s largest mortgage lender, the credit union has issued more than $ 1.6 billion in mortgages since January 2020.

“The credit union has benefited from this level of activity, and our management believes these commitments are important given our role in housing,” he said. “We strongly believe that organizations that build on the strength of the community should, when they can, give back to the community and help make it better. “

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