Study praises Vermont programs for affordable housing

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(Host) A new study finds that Vermont is doing a good job in funding and developing affordable housing. The study concludes that Vermont’s system is efficient and could be a model for the rest of the country.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) In December 2003, the Douglas administration hired a Washington-area consulting firm to dig deeply into the state’s affordable housing programs.

The management audit took about 18 months. And Phil Jones, the study’s lead author, says Vermont should feel good about the way government and non-profits pay for and deliver affordable housing.

(Jones) “We came to the conclusion that the system is very effective. And even more effective when you compare it with what happens in a lot of other states.”

(Dillon) Jones and his team looked at nine of the 15 major non-profit housing developers. They found no projects that failed. And they concluded that the programs serve low-income people at a greater rate than any other state in New England.

Jones says he was skeptical at first when he learned that affordable housing in Vermont was developed by a system of non-profit organizations. But, he says his research found a high level of expertise.

(Jones) “It works well because we have groups an the local level, on the ground in touch with the needs of that local clientele, in touch with the local community leaders, aware where there is land, where there is money, where there is property that is ready to be renovated.”

(Dillon) The Senate Government Operations Committee is looking into the way the state delivers affordable housing. Senator Jim Condos, a Chittenden County Democrat, chairs the panel.

(Condos) “I think this is a positive report. I think this is something that Vermont should be very proud of. I think we should we work and continue to fund non-profit housing deliver as the way we are now. We are a leader in the country, and we’ve got a workable solution.”

(Dillon) The non-profits are funded in part by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The report found that the board’s oversight and mentoring style has strengthened the non-profit housing sector in Vermont.

The report is the latest piece of good news for the board. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development recently recognized the board for its work on rural housing programs. The organization is also a finalist for a Harvard University innovation award.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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