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Governor Scott promotes the Vermont Housing Improvement Program during Rutland visit

Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott was in Rutland today to promote funding for a state program that helps increase affordable housing stock.

Housing advocates and Scott administration officials stood in front of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont to talk about how $20 million appropriated during the legislative session is funding the Vermont Housing Improvement Program. Generally referred to as VHIP, it covers up to $50,000 per unit for rental property owners to bring vacant and blighted properties back into the rental market.

Governor Scott, a Republican, says there are a lot of existing but vacant housing stock across the state, unused because it’s either not up to code or needs work that landlords can’t afford.

“As part of my housing proposal I included over $20 million for the Vermont Housing Improvement Program, or VHIP, with the goal of bringing existing units back online. And we’re confident this will work," asserted Scott, "because we proved it with our pilot program last year which helped bring more than 300 units back to the market. Now we’re ready to put this year’s $20 million to work.”

Department of Housing and Community Development Commissioner Josh Hanford said the VHIP program is a solution that quickly creates affordable housing.

“Often the more traditional building of new affordable housing units take a while and they have a long waiting list. And yet people are homeless and we have vacant housing stock that could be put to use. So, due to the affordability of VHIP, we have been able to get more units online and faster and at a faster rate than traditional building of new construction," said Hanford. "This is also a very efficient and effective program when you come to cost perspective. These units are averaging under $30,000 per unit to bring them on line.”

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont Executive Director Heather Starzynski says for most of their 35 years they have focused on homebuyers. The state’s VHIP program allows them to expand and engage with renters and landlords.

“The housing crisis here in Rutland County has been exacerbated by the continued lack of new housing stock at a rate that we need to have a healthy housing market. Therefore it becomes critical to invest in the housing stock that we already have," said Starzynski. "The VHIP is another exciting tool that will allow us to do just that. Over the past two years we have brought on more than 80 units and with these additional VHIP funds we now have 30 units in the pipeline, to our goal of 73 additional units. And all of these are in our three county service area, in Addison, Rutland and Bennington counties, and will serve those who are now living without some sort of housing stability.”

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