Housing advocate to be honored
CLARENDON — Elisabeth Kulas, executive director of the Housing Trust of Rutland County, will be recognized next week for promoting smart growth, energy efficiency, renewable energy and strong communities through the development of affordable housing.
Kulas, of Clarendon, will receive the Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership from the Vermont Natural Resources Council at VNRC’s annual meeting on Sept. 29, at the Inn at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield.
As executive director and project developer of the Housing Trust of Rutland County, Kulas promotes affordable housing solutions, offering services and programs for individuals and communities. The Housing Trust works in rental housing, mobile home parks, special needs housing and offers technical assistance to municipalities and civic groups.
Kulas is known for her persistence and tenacity in redeveloping buildings and sites often known as white elephants. These are often prominent in communities and have important histories, but also resulting challenges. She leads the design process through the eyes of the user, striving for quality of life for the intended renters, while also creating high quality housing that respects and integrates into its surroundings.
“Affordable housing development often isn’t easy, but it’s clear that Elisabeth has worked tirelessly to create quality housing for people, while also revitalizing our communities,” said Kate McCarthy, VNRC’s sustainable communities program director. “She is an innovator, too, integrating energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions to lower energy costs and increase comfort for the people who live in the buildings, while reusing historic buildings.”
A native of New England, Kulas earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Smith College before beginning her career in housing at the Rockingham Area Community Land Trust. At 25, she took the helm as executive director of the Housing Trust of Rutland County (formerly the Rutland County Community Land Trust) and has been there ever since. During her tenure, Kulas has overseen 20 major housing projects and oversees a portfolio of projects worth over $37.8 million.
“Across her more than 20 year career at the Housing Trust of Rutland County, Elisabeth has demonstrated the leadership, creativity, vision and commitment to public service that this award recognizes,” wrote Paul Bruhn and Emily Wadhams in nominating Kulas for the award.
Her work in housing and conservation has also been a steady economic driver in the region, contributing $4 million dollars a year to the local economy, in addition to new project investments.
Connie Snow, executive director of the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, wrote in her nomination of Kulas, “Elisabeth believes in Community with a capital “C”: communities that are inclusive and provide opportunity. While that may be the driver, she understands the bigger pictures: that the safe, attractive and sustainable neighborhoods she is working to create — and the economic engine of her construction activity — are integral pieces to overall community health and well-being.”
The Arthur Gibb Award has been given since 2006 to a Vermont resident who embodies qualities similar to those of the late Arthur “Art” Gibb, and who has made a lasting contribution to their community, region or state in advancing smart growth policies.
First elected to the Vermont Legislature in 1962, Gibb was a Cornwall resident who was deeply involved in passing legislation to ban billboards, enact the state’s bottle deposit law, regulate junkyards and modernize statutes governing local and regional planning. He served on the commission that laid the groundwork for Act 250 and served twelve years on the Vermont Environmental Board, including one year as Chair.