Hancock apartments stay affordable

HANCOCK — The Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) will acquire and renovate Hancock’s most prominent affordable housing apartment building, thereby preserving the low-cost rental units for at least the next 20 years.
At issue is the five-unit Mountain View project at 123 Route 125, which for the past 30 years has accommodated low-income tenants under the federal Section 8 housing program. That program pays rental subsidies for tenants earning less than 50 percent of the area median household income, which is currently $35,750 for a family of four.
Terry McKnight, executive director of ACCT, noted that Mountain View has been a particularly important source of affordable housing because its Section 8 benefits are linked to each of the five units. The Section 8 program also extends vouchers that travel with the individual, but McKnight explained the federal government has placed a moratorium on new vouchers.
Hancock resident Peter Harvey and a local architect designed and established Mountain View during the early 1980s. The units are located in a 160-year-old house and an attached barn and annex, McKnight said.
“They did a very nice job, and have maintained it for 30 years,” McKnight said, noting the units are consistently full and are located very close to Hancock village and local services.
“It really is singular to the service it provides in Hancock,” McKnight added. Hancock was one of several Vermont communities hit extremely hard by Tropical Storm Irene last August.
But that service could have ended this year, according to McKnight, who said Mountain View had reached a 30-year benchmark at which point Harvey could re-evaluate the apartments’ involvement in the Section 8 program. Harvey had the option of selling Mountain View to either a private developer or a local nonprofit committed to maintaining the property as affordable housing.
Fortunately, McKnight said, Harvey chose the latter. ACCT quickly declared an interest in acquiring the property, and applied for grants to make that happen.
Late last month, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board announced it had awarded a $140,000 grant to help ACCT acquire Mountain View. The federal HOME Program has also pledged $161,320, money that will be matched with private funding and federal rental assistance to provide affordable rentals for the five apartments, which range in size from two bedrooms to four bedrooms. The Section 8 subsidies will be extended for another 20 years, according to McKnight.
“The apartments are in good shape, but they are dated,” said Steve Sak, director of property management for ACCT.
After acquiring Mountain View, ACCT officials will size up the property for a litany of repairs and upgrades, including some new windows, appliances, cabinetry, flooring and fixtures. Plans also call for better insulation and a more energy efficient boiler — perhaps solar hot water, McKnight said. The ACCT will apply for additional federal grants to help make energy-related improvements, according to Sak.
McKnight estimated it will cost $600,000 to $700,000 to acquire and improve Mountain View.
Once financing is in place, ACT will improve the units one at a time in an effort to minimize disruption for tenants, Sak said.
Officials anticipate a continuing strong market for Mountain View.
“We don’t expect we will have any problems filling it,” McKnight said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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