Vermont investing $5M in housing rehabilitation
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Gov. Phil Scott is trying to get more housing online but not necessarily by building it. The Vermont Housing Improvement Program is looking to fix up existing houses.
“We really need a variety of strategies to house homeless folks,” said Michael Monte with the Champlain Housing Trust.
The state’s new Vermont Housing Improvement program, or VHIP, is one strategy.
“It’ll be about 20 houses or so,” said Monte.
Monte estimates about 400 people in Chittenden County are in need of permanent housing.
This program is a drop in a larger housing problem, but Monte says it’s a start and the state agrees.
“Not a day goes by without hearing a story of folks that are still living in hotels and motels struggling, looking for a place to live,” said Josh Hanford, the commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Hanford says this is a chance to reinvest in what’s already built, housing units that exist but are in disrepair or need to be brought up to code.
“There are apartments, there are homes that are sitting empty and need reinvestment, they need some TLC,” said Hanford.
The program was just given a $5 million boost.
It will be dispersed to regional homeownership centers to offer grants to landlords and homeowners, so they can do work.
The grants can be up to $30,000 with a 20% match by the property owner. Hanford says this is a fast way to bring immediate housing back for those in need.
“Reinvest in those properties, bring them back online, weatherization, make them safe, warm, great places to live,” said Hanford.
This specific round is to create space for folks exiting homelessness.
Hanford says he knows it can work because similar program models brought on 240 units in the last year with coronavirus relief funds.
The state estimates about 140 can be brought on this time, but this isn’t the only solution.
“This doesn’t negate that we need some new housing built, absolutely,” said Hanford.
But in the short term, investing in what we have makes the most sense. Monte says no plan should be overlooked.
“I think at this point, every opportunity and every strategy should be used,” said Monte.
Hanford says he hopes that this program will also continue beyond just this $5 million.
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