By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
One housing program in Vermont is making strides.
The Vermont Housing Improvement Program has worked to bring vacant rental apartments and houses back on the market. The state invested $20 million into the program during the current legislative session, Gov. Phil Scott said.
“It’s no secret that in every corner of the state, lack of housing is a major concern,” Scott said in a release. “This is impacting Vermonters already here and it’s a barrier to growing our workforce. We have a lot of jobs available, and we know there are people who are looking to work in Vermont, but they can’t find decent, affordable housing.”
Scott said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his administration were working to address the state’s housing issues.
“In my first term in office, I proposed a $37 million housing bond, which at the time was the single-largest investment in housing we’d ever made,” Scott said in the release. “It also leveraged about $200 million more in private investments, leading to hundreds if not thousands of new units coming online over the last several years.”
Scott said the pandemic stretched the state’s housing market, and knew that housing would be a top priority with the release of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the state, totaling more than $1 billion.
“I proposed investing a quarter-billion dollars to build new homes for low-income and middle-class families,” the Republican governor said. “That work is underway and in total, we’ve built or preserved over 2,000 new affordable housing units since the pandemic started, more than triple the normal affordable housing production of only about 300 a year.”
Housing Commissioner Josh Hanford said that over the past two years the state has made “historic investments” in housing that have tripled the number of affordable homes constructed each year and more than “$300 million has been dedicated” to constructing affordable housing units in the state.
“Of those funds, $20 million has been dedicated to the continuation of the successful Vermont Housing Improvement Program,” Hanford said. “Due to the affordability of VHIP, we have been able to get more units online and at a faster rate than if we were just building new construction. This program highlights the opportunities that exist in our historic neighborhoods to provide the affordable housing we need and improve the communities we call home.”
Vermont, as of Aug. 30 according to the release, had 329 units that were once vacant back on the housing market after being approved to participate in the program, and three-quarters of those rentals are being used to house homeless individuals and families.