Business & Economy

Sanders announces $3 million in housing grants for Vermont

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced $3 million in grants from the National Housing Trust Fund to be steered to Vermont for building, preserving and rehabilitating affordable housing across the green mountain state.

“Increasing the availability of affordable housing in Vermont has consistently been one of my top priorities,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “After more than 15 years of fighting for the National Housing Trust Fund, I am very pleased to see all 50 states receive funds to provide housing for people who are most in need.”

The National Housing Trust Fund was formed in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, a law designed to mitigate the economic damage wrought from the subprime mortgage crisis. The fund, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is similar to the HOME program, another HUD program that supports the building of affordable housing. But the National Housing Trust Fund more deeply targets low income households whose annual income is below the federal poverty level.

In 2016, when the fund allocated its first round of grants, more than $173 million was allocated. Last year Vermont was awarded $3 million. The fund’s money comes through payments made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the mortgage companies responsible for the 2008 financial crash. The two companies became government-run enterprises after the crash.

According to a March report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 8.1 million low-income households spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities. The report goes on to say that there is a shortage of 7.4 million affordable homes available to working Americans.

“Affordable housing is essential. When you spend half of your money on rent, that leaves very little for other necessities such as food and medicine,” Sanders said.

Sanders first introduced legislation to create a National Housing Trust Fund in 2001, when he was a U.S. Representative. The fund was inspired by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. Since the Vermont fund’s inception in 1988, nearly $260 million has been awarded to help build 1,500 housing projects in 220 towns.

Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, praised Sanders in a statement Thursday for his “steadfast commitment and leadership” to create the National Housing Trust Fund.

“The National Housing Trust Fund focuses on the most at risk and lowest income of our citizens. These households have the most difficulty finding homes they can afford,” Seelig said.

Seelig said the funds will support 22 low-income Vermont families with the building of more than 140 affordable apartments in Burlington, Brattleboro, Randolph, Rutland, Poultney and Marshfield.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Sally Cook

    Low income people could have the best of both worlds as they work with their family members to rehab some structurally sound but really cheap local older housing. Or find a lot, put an old trailer on it while trying to build.

    Back in the day, people who could not afford brand new houses bought “fixer-uppers,” and rolled up their sleeves to fix them up. There are certainly a lot of those fixer uppers around Vermont right now, starting from around $40,000 – $50,000 – cheaper than mobile homes.

    They also built new houses, working first to build the foundation, then live in it, as they gradually built the next one or two levels. My best friend’s family lived in a trailer with three kids, as they mixed concrete and hauled cinder blocks in a wheelbarrow to build a basement for the family to live in, then built the house up from there.

    Mom and Pop both worked all day at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, but they built their house on weekends, and they loved their kids, who helped haul building materials with their parents. Fortunately they lived in a small town where neighbors kind of kept track of their local kids.

    This could happen now. It doesn’t have to be about just collecting welfare and lounging on the front porch all day.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Thank you Senator Sanders. 140 affordable apartments are very welcome.

    • Neil Johnson

      There are only 22 affordable apartments, The rest will be market according to this article in Vermont Digger.

      Where is the money really going? Don’t be fooled. It’s padding the pocket of developers.

  • Keith Stern

    It beats solving the problem of low paying jobs in the country, at least in the politicians’ minds. Of course that money our future generations will be paying interest on forever, at least until the country goes insolvent.

  • Neil Johnson

    So is he getting money for the rich or poor? Seems to me he’s padding the landlord pocket book.

  • Neil Johnson

    Yeah, apparently nothing has changed, footage from 2002 is still in play. Funny thing is it’s going to the landlords to create tenants for life.

    If they only allowed us to make $100k homes these people could retire on social security, put more money in their pocket and have an actual asset to pass on to their children. This plan keep land lords fat and happy and the poor tenants for multiple generations.