VHCB Awards $2.9 Million to Provide Public Access to Water, Conserve Farmland and Historic Buildings, and Create New Homeownership and Rental Housing Opportunities

At a meeting on March 15, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board awarded $2,955,197 to create new homes in a downtown Bennington development, to conserve 440 acres of farmland in Rutland and Orleans Counties, and to protect public access to water in Calais, Burlington and Bolton.

Putnam Block, Bennington - Bennington Banner photo
– In a public-private partnership, Shires Housing, working with a consortium of municipal and private entities, will use $635,000 in Housing Revenue Bond funds to create housing and fill a funding gap in the redevelopment of the Putnam Block. A mixture of rehabilitation and new construction will transform the historic, central downtown block, siting restaurants, a grocery store, office space, a health care facility, coffee shop, and bookstore on the street level, with 22 apartments above. Environmental hazard remediation and comprehensive rehabilitation of the Hotel Putnam, the Old Courthouse, and the Winslow building form the first phase of the development, which will encompass 70 new homes when complete. Total development costs for the first phase of the project are $25.4 million.

Springfield – With a supplemental award of $376,524 in Housing Revenue Bond funds and $323,476 in National Housing Trust funds, Housing Vermont and the Springfield Housing Authority will increase the affordability of two apartments to be created in the Woolson Block to households with incomes below 30% of median and complete the project budget. VHCB previously committed $850,000 in bond funds and federal funding to the redevelopment of the Woolson Block.

Statewide – The board committed $382,264 to assist 10 households to become homeowners. Rehabilitation loans and grants will enable buyers to purchase shared equity homes through community land trusts and home ownership centers. VHCB’s HOMELAND program provides purchase subsidies to home buyers equivalent to 20% of the purchase price, up to $44,000. In addition to the HOMELAND grant, buyers obtain mortgage loan financing and contribute at least $1,500 of their own cash resources towards the purchase price. HOMELAND grants provide permanent affordability and limit appreciation with an agreement between the nonprofit and the homeowner. In return, the initial purchase price of the home is reduced by the amount of the grant. Subsequent purchasers are able to benefit from the limited appreciation and purchase a home for less than market value.

Orleans and Rutland Counties – Funding was awarded for three farmland projects that the Vermont Land Trust is working to conserve. The conservation of these three farms will protect 440 acres, allowing farmers to expand their businesses, improve infrastructure, and pay down debt. The acreage to be conserved includes two dairy farms (one conventional and one grass-based dairy) in the Lake Memphremagog watershed and a diversified livestock operation in the Lake Champlain Basin. VHCB awarded $465,433 in state funds, matched by $467,500 in funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to conserve the farmland. The conservation easements will also provide for vegetative buffers along waterways and protect wetlands to improve water quality.

historic photo of Memorial Hall in Calais
North Calais – The Preservation Trust of Vermont is working with the North Calais Memorial Hall Association to preserve public access to three acres with 2,000 feet of frontage on Mirror Lake (locally known as Number 10 Pond) and to restore and rehabilitate Memorial Hall, a historic veterans hall and community gathering place closed since 2014. A VHCB grant of $130,000 will be used to address structural deficiencies and improve safety and accessibility, while preserving historic features. A conservation easement and management plan will ensure responsible, permanent public access for swimming and will protect water quality and wildlife habitat.

Burlington – A $144,000 VHCB grant award and $8,000 from the City of Burlington will help the Lake Champlain Land Trust acquire a conservation easement on 94 acres owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont on a peninsula known as Rock Point, located along the Burlington bike path with nearly a mile of frontage on Lake Champlain. Other fundraising will be required to complete the project budget. With two miles of trails, the property is adjacent to North Beach Park, Arms Park, and the Burlington High School’s cross-country running trail network and close to the Old North End and New North End neighborhoods. To manage trail use and protect rare and endangered plants, a land steward will be hired during the summer months and trail and signage improvements will be made.

Bolton Potholes - Greg Parsons photo
Bolton – The Vermont River Conservancy will acquire and conserve 3 acres known as the Bolton Potholes, a popular swimming destination, using $31,000 in VHCB funding and leveraging $40,000 in foundation funds and local fundraising. Active management of the property by the Vermont River Conservancy and outreach and education through a land steward will help address safety issues, parking and access, and reduce impact on the natural resource.