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Community Trust mounts its 1st fund drive to aid affordable housing

VERGENNES — The Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) is marking its 25th birthday this month with a first-ever capital fund drive aimed at raising $25,000 to further its mission as the county’s largest provider of affordable housing.
Established in 1990, the ACCT currently owns and operates more than 600 units of permanently affordable housing in Addison County. The organization’s portfolio includes management and/or ownership of 258 multifamily apartments, such as Armory Lane Senior Housing in Vergennes; the Peter Coe Apartments (formerly John Graham Court), Pine Meadow, Middlebury South Village, and Stone Hill Apartments in Middlebury; and Mountain View Apartments in Hancock.
The apartments are typically designed to be affordable to families earning less than the area median income. Some units carry additional subsidies guaranteeing that qualifying residents will not pay more than 30 percent of their gross income in rent, regardless of how little they earn. And many of the apartments are in new, energy efficient buildings near downtown hubs.
In addition to apartments, the ACCT also owns nine mobile home parks in the area. These parks provide a combined total of 340 lots for owner-occupied mobile homes.
Since 2009, the ACCT has housed 982 low- to middle-income families, according to the statistics provided by the organization.
But more needs to be done, officials said. The median rent in Addison County currently hovers around $1,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and with the county’s vacancy rate below 1 percent, affordable apartments are difficult to find. The shortage of affordable housing is likely to get worse through 2020, as demand increases while median income is on the decline — already down 11 percent since 2010 and trending downward, according to ACCT officials.
In an effort to more nimbly respond to future affordable housing opportunities and to provide additional financial stability, the ACCT is reaching out to prospective donors to raise $25,000 during the month of December.
Elise Shanbacker, executive director of the ACCT, said this will be the first of what will be regular, annual fundraisers for the organization. The ACCT has already set a goal of $50,000 for next year.
“It is our first ever annual appeal,” Shanbacker said. “We are seeking to grow the amount, year to year.”
Raising the additional money is becoming increasingly essential for ACCT to reach its goals, according to Shanbacker. She explained that roughly two thirds of the ACCT’s budget is derived from the rental income it collects. The remaining third usually comes from grants and private donations, she said.
“The grants are getting more and more competitive,” Shanbacker explained of the need to pick up some of the slack with contributions.
Community Trust officials have sent solicitation letters to many county residents and businesses. That effort has thus far yielded around $20,000 toward the $25,000 goal, with a few more weeks left in December. The organization’s fundraising literature includes some testimonials from families that have been helped by the ACCT, including that of Lorna Brown, a resident of Armory Lane Senior Housing in Vergennes.
Brown and her husband both graduated from Burlington High School and later the University of Vermont, going on to pursue long-term careers in teaching. When her husband fell ill it became necessary to find a safe, caring place for him, so the couple moved into Armory Lane, where they benefited from Support And Services at Home (SASH), a new experimental program through which Medicare recipients receive help in accessing services and wellness programs designed to keep them living independently and therefore out of more costly nursing home and hospital settings.
“Every day, I feel so fortunate to be a part of life here at the Armory,” she said.
People wanting to learn more about ACCT and how to contribute to its capital campaign should log on to addisontrust.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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