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.