Vergennes affordable housing project gets final funding

VERGENNES — The funding pieces have fallen into place for a planned 24-unit Vergennes affordable housing project on Armory Lane, and construction should begin in August, according to Elise Shanbacker, the executive director of the Addison County Community Trust (ACCT).
ACCT and Housing Vermont are cooperating on the project, called Vergennes Community Housing, which in April and May received the final two funding awards it needed.
One will be worth more than $4 million of equity from a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, and the other is a $400,000 grant from the Vermont Community Development Program to the City of Vergennes to be dedicated to the effort.
According to ACCT and Housing Vermont these awards build on funding of the more $2 million the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board earlier had allocated, including through Housing Revenue Bond funds. Construction should run around $5.4 million, Shanbacker said, and the total development cost will be a little less than $7.3 million.
Shanbacker said work should begin within three months on a site that lies directly across from the senior housing project already on Armory Lane, just west of American Legion Post 14. A crosswalk will link the two properties.
“All permits are in hand, and construction is anticipated to run from August 2019 through June 2020,” she said.
The 23,000-square-foot building, according to the projects’ Vergennes Development Review Board application, will include 14 one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units, and a three-bedroom apartment in a structure that will be partly two and partly three stories.
There will be 37 parking spaces, a sidewalk leading to the crosswalk across Armory Lane, porches around the front and rear entrances, and a play area and vegetable garden on the building’s east side. According to the application, the new building will at its closest point be 335 feet from American Legion Post 14 and 700 feet from the nearest home.
Shanbacker said the 24 units will include seven market-rate apartments set aside for households making up to 120 percent of the local median income, eight units affordable to households earning less than half of area median income, and nine units available to households earning less than 60 percent of median income.
ACCT and Housing Vermont use federal calculations of the region’s median income, which for 2019 translate to $76,100 for a family of four, $53,300 for one person, and $60,900 for two people.
Shanbacker said monthly rents, including heat, will range from about $659 for income-restricted units up to $1,175 for the market-rate units.
“Most of the units will be restricted to households earning less than $32,000 annually,” Shanbacker said. “For reference, a full-time minimum wage earner makes about $23,000 per year. This project will provide much needed workforce housing up and down the income scale, including for households earning higher wages — up to $63,960 for a single individual, or $91,320 for a four-person household.” 
In the past Shanbacker has said seniors will almost certainly occupy some of the new apartments, as is the case for about 40 percent of the roughly 600 units that ACCT already manages around the county, but new units will not be specifically set aside for seniors.
ACCT has a waiting list that has only grown while the new project has been in planning and permitting stages.
“While we are not accepting applications for Vergennes Community Housing yet, we received 20 percent more applications for housing in 2018 than we did in 2017, and still have over 100 people on the wait list for housing in Vergennes. Vergennes has a zero-percent vacancy rate and rents in the $1,000 to $1,200 per month range,” Shanbacker said. 
Although applications are not yet being fielded, inquiries are welcome at (802) 877-2626.
“We are keeping an interest list if people would like to be notified when we open the application process, which will likely be at the beginning of 2020,” Shanbacker said.

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