Business & Economy

$9M fund created to boost Upper Valley housing, backed by area employers

Construction workers renovate two buildings with 24 total units at the Briars Apartments in Hartford in March 2017. File photo by Jovelle Tamayo/Valley News

Editor’s Note: This story by Nora Doyle-Burr first appeared in the Valley News on Sept. 23.

Nonprofit housing finance organization Evernorth has announced the creation of an $8.95 million workforce housing loan fund for the Upper Valley.

The Upper Valley Loan Fund, supported by eight Upper Valley employers, is slated to yield as many as 260 additional rental homes in the region over the next two or three years. Of the new units, 243, or 94%, are to be affordable to people earning between $13 and $25 per hour.

“The bottom line is that the workforce cannot find an affordable place to live in the Upper Valley,” Deb Flannery, vice president of lending at Evernorth, said in a Thursday press release.

Managed by Evernorth, a Burlington-based nonprofit that facilitates financing for moderate-income housing projects in northern New England, the loan fund is slated to build or preserve apartments for people who can afford rents of $1,200 to $1,600 per month, below the current market rate for apartments in New Hampshire’s Grafton County and Vermont’s Windsor County of between $1,500 to $2,200 per month.

“By leveraging these employer dollars, we will be able to create considerable savings for the workforce as compared to what the market is producing,” Flannery said.

The initial fund, capitalized with investments from Bar Harbor Bank, Citizens Bank, Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Health, Hanover Co-op Food Stores, Hypertherm, King Arthur Baking and Mascoma Bank, is expected to leverage about $67 million in additional public and private financing to increase the rate of production of workforce housing.

The announcement comes as the region is struggling with a housing shortage. The Upper Valley needs 10,000 new homes by 2030 to meet demand, according to a recent report by the White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities. Getting there requires tripling the current annual rate of housing production.

The Upper Valley Loan Fund, aimed at accelerating the pace of affordable housing development, comes out of a workforce housing initiative led by a steering committee comprising local business leaders. The fund was first announced in June at an annual breakfast meeting hosted by Vital Communities and focused on the state of the Upper Valley housing market. It was then slated to be a $10 million fund.

The $8.95 million fund could mean that fewer units are able to be funded than initially hoped, a total of 233 compared to 260, said Lisa Patlis, an Evernorth spokesperson.

“But those are just estimates, and Evernorth will work to leverage these funds to create as many units as possible,” Patlis said.

The participating employers have said their ability to recruit and retain workers is hindered by the housing shortage.

Clayton Adams, president and CEO at Mascoma Bank, said in the release: “Without workers who have a place to live, the economy as we know it will cease to function effectively.”

Evernorth estimates the funds will be released over two to three years in two to four transactions per year.

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