Our 2021 Annual Report is now available! An excerpt highlighting some of our key accomplishment is posted below, along with a snapshot visual summary.
When we celebrated our "We Made It Home" event last year, vaccines, warm weather, and it seemed easier times were on the horizon. Of course the pandemic had other plans for us, with Delta and then Omicron requiring course corrections and adjustments. Nevertheless, we continued to "make it home" for thousands of Addison County residents.
Residents of our senior housing stayed safe with assistance from our SASH program, which ensured that every senior was able to get the vaccine. Launched last March, our new Family Support Program expanded our ability to help families with children access resources that addressed everything from financial security to food insecurity. Residents of our mobile home communities enjoyed better, safer infrastructure including rebuilt roads and clean water projects.
In addition to those who have lived with ACCT for a long time, 70 new families found a home with ACCT in 2021, from 23 who were experiencing homelessness to five who realized their dream of homeownership. In 2022 we will lay the groundwork for even more housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters as we seek to break ground on a 20-unit apartment complex on Firehouse Drive in Bristol.
As we look to the future, we may not know what lies ahead, but we know that with your support, we will be better prepared than ever to meet the challenges and opportunities that come our way.
ACCT's Annual Meeting will take place on Thursday, April 28, at 4pm via Zoom. Join us to hear about our 2021 Annual Report and have an open discussion on affordable housing challenges and solutions. Meeting materials:
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Did you know that April is Fair Housing Month? We've been observing Fair Housing Month at ACCT by featuring and supporting Fair Housing Fridays. Every Friday in April, there's a webinar discussion of different Fair Housing Topics. Tomorrow's topic is “Unique Challenges and Opportunities of Mobile Home Parks” and ACCT's Executive Director Elise Shanbacker will speak as a panelist. See below for more details and registration information--hope to see you there!
Unique Challenges and Opportunities of Mobile Home Parks
Friday April 22, 2022 from 12:30-1:30 (40 mins panel, 20 mins questions)
Featuring: Elise Shanbacker (ACCT), Kelly Hamshaw (UVM CDAE), Gayle Pezzo (Westbury)
Vermont’s Mobile Home Parks are home to more than 7,000 households and provide an affordable homeownership option despite the rising costs of housing across the state. These 236 communities can be found situated in many different contexts ranging from urban Burlington to remotest corner of the Canadian border; while their specific contexts may differ, common challenges and opportunities can be found in nearly every park. Despite making up a significant piece of the state’s affordable housing landscape, the “housing conversation” in Vermont often overlooks these communities and the unique challenges residents and park owners face within them.
Join us for a lively conversation about these unique challenges, including:
February has been another busy month at ACCT and in the affordable housing world! First up, we were able to secure a slot for a VHCB AmeriCorps for a five- to six-month position as a Community Engagement Coordinator. To apply, please visit the VHCB website at https://vhcb.org/our-programs/vhcb-americorps/positions.
In more exciting news from VHCB, the Farmworker Housing Repair Program is now underway to help improve health, safety, comfort, and general housing conditions of farmworkers. The program will provide zero interest loans from $3k-$30k and are forgivable if the units remain farmworker housing. Additional funds for larger projects may also be available through Champlain Housing Trust (CHT). CHT and UVM have partnered to help farmers through the application process, but call soon as applications are projected to close April 15, 2022. Contact: Call or email Charlie Glassberg at Champlain Housing Trust , (802) 810-8217; or email Becca Heine at UVM Extension, 802-503-2375 .
Finally (for now), VT Digger recently highlighted challenges around building general workforce housing outside of NW Vermont. ACCT is staying tuned for more info on resources that may be available to create more affordable ownership housing. In the meantime, don't forget to visit our Resale Bulletin Board for opportunities in our Shared Equity Program.
Executive Director Elise Shanbacker Testifies to Vermont House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife
Good morning. My name is Elise Shanbacker and I am the Executive Director of the Addison County Community Trust. ACCT was founded in 1989 to preserve land for affordable housing. Currently we own, manage, and steward over 700 permanently affordable homes, including apartments, houses, and mobile home sites.
All of this has been made possible by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Full statutory funding for VHCB of $35.2 million dollars is more critical now than ever as we work to leverage unprecedented federal resources for housing and conservation projects. Nowhere is this more important than in our mobile home parks, which is what I’d like to highlight for you today.
ACCT is one of the largest mobile home park owners in the state, with nine parks encompassing 340 home sites and five public water systems. As you may know, last year we completed an assessment of the infrastructure in our parks and created a financial plan for funding sorely needed upgrades. Many of the parks date from the 60s and have not had significant infrastructure upgrades in 50 years in some cases. Not only does this jeopardize the homes of hundreds of low- and moderate-income Vermonters, it creates potential environmental hazards that negatively impact quality of life, health, and in extreme cases, safety.
For example, Lindale mobile home park in Middlebury was originally built in 1968 and is home to 67 families with a median income of just about $35,000. Many of the homes have outdated septic systems that are well past the end of their useful life. This has led to sewage backups into homes and sometimes surfacing effluent in yards. We have been working on a community septic solution for the park since 2017 and in the last year have been able to acquire grants and loans to make the project a reality. This includes a $500,000 grant from VHCB without which the project would not be possible. We are in the final stages of permitting and hope to bid the project this spring, but are facing the real possibility that we will need to reapply to VHCB for gap funding due to the skyrocketing costs of construction in Vermont.
To give you a sense of the urgency and impact of this project, I’d like to share with you an email ACCT received from a resident last fall. The note reads, “I am writing this email because our septic tank filled up. It backed up into our house again Friday 10-22-2021. This has been happening now since we lived here over 2 years. I spent about an hour scrubbing the whole shower tub and toilet. I Threw away our shower mat, curtain, and used chemicals to clean with like we have been doing for over 2 years this is a costly expense…Me, wife, and 3 kids should not be exposed to this harmful unsanitary issue. This is a hazard to my health and my families health so please let us know when you will have this problem fixed.”
As you can see, this is as much an issue of environmental justice as it is of affordable housing. Mobile home parks are a vital source of affordable housing for Vermonters and yet are often overlooked in our housing and funding systems. The new Lindale community septic system will not only preserve this housing resource for future generations, it will ensure proper wastewater treatment, water quality, and a healthy environment for park residents and the surrounding ecosystem.
The Lindale project is one of many ACCT is currently undertaking or has in the pipeline. VHCB recently awarded us nearly $300,000 for construction of a new water system at Vaughns in Monkton, and they also awarded us $15,000 for planning a new community septic at Brookside in Starksboro. We will be applying for additional significant construction funds for that project this year. Additionally, we are working on flood hazard mitigation at Lazy Brook and Hillside in Starksboro and Huntington in partnership with the Lewis Creek Association, and new septic systems at Lauritsen in Bristol. None of these projects would be possible without VHCB funding. Furthermore, a $60,000 supplemental capacity award from VHCB recently allowed us to hire a project manager to steer these projects through the incredibly complex funding environment. The challenge will only get greater as we start to navigate the ANR process for allocating new ARPA dollars for Mobile Home Communities and an influx of IIJA infrastructure funds. Full funding for VHCB with flexible state PTT dollars will help us execute on these projects and bring clean water projects to hundreds of Vermonters living in Addison County and the Lake Champlain watershed.
Finally, in addition to full funding for VHCB, another concrete step legislators can take is clarifying to ANR the state statute governing what entities are eligible for subsidy through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The current interpretation in the state’s Intended Use Plan limits subsidy eligibility to municipalities. Nonprofit and cooperatively owned mobile home communities should be categorically eligible for subsidy through the CSWSRF in order to address the consequential environmental justice issues facing these communities. This change needs to be clarified before the upcoming IUP is finalized in June.
Thank you very much for your time today in listening to the environmental challenges and opportunities facing ACCT mobile home parks, for your support of full statutory funding for VHCB, and for considering mobile home parks and the environmental justice impacts of the important work you are doing in this committee.
Assistance is not limited to late mortgage payments--HAP can help with utilities bills, stewardship fees, taxes, mobile home loans, and more. Contact VHFA for more information and if you need additional assistance applying, ACCT can help. Homeowners in our Shared Equity Program should contact Michelle; all others please reach out to Precious in the Family Support Program.
2022 has gotten off to a busy start at ACCT! We submitted two funding applications for renovation projects, are working on the resale of a shared equity home, and already planning for warmer weather with the kickoff of our community garden programming for this summer.
Meanwhile, ACCT residents at Lazy Brook Park were featured in the Washington Post, which reported on planned upgrades to the HUD code for manufactured housing and specifically what it will mean for affordability and energy efficiency. More news is hopefully in the works for mobile home parks: ANR is soon launching a program aimed at investments in mobile home park infrastructure through the American Recovery Plan Act, aka ARPA. If the graphic for the program looks familiar, that's because it is none other than ACCT's own Lauritsen park in Bristol.
For our part, we are close to going out to bid for a new community septic system at Lindale, seeking VHCB funds for a new water system at Vaughns, and conducting a preliminary engineering study for a new community septic at Brookside. With Governor Scott proposing well over $100 million in additional housing investments in his 2023 budget address, we are hopeful that the next year will bring even more housing investments to Addison County.
A resident of our newest 24-unit eco-friendly building, Vergennes Community Apartments, let us know how much the place she now calls home means to her and her daughter.
Domestic violence and a fire lead Jennifer to seek assistance from a local support group. Vermont Network reports that there are an estimated 40,000 victims of domestic or sexual violence in Vermont. Jennifer had no license, no car, and was the longest standing resident at the motel provided to her and her 7 year old daughter.
"I looked everywhere for an apartment. I had to be closer to town for transportation since I didn't have a car and it was more expensive the closer I got."
One day all of this changed for Jennifer and her daughter.
"I met Alice at Women's Safe one day. All my life I had never filled out any kind of application for housing or rental assistance so I didn't know all the things I needed to do. Alice helped me get all the paperwork done and when she called me to tell me I got the apartment I broke down crying."
Vergennes Community Apartments is located minutes from main street and feet from the local middle school. This has done wonders for her daughters healing who is now participating in band and is learning to cook, something Jennifer never thought she would do as she had previously refused to go to afterschool programs.
When asked about the amenities at VCA, Jennifer said "I don't have to stress about getting through the week." VCA offers free WIFI to residents which allowed her daughter to keep up with school during the pandemic. Jennifer also was able to utilize the WIFI to stay connected with health professionals even when community transit was shut down due to COVID. "You guys checked off so many of my worries." Jennifer said when discussing her daughter learning to ride her bike safely with no training wheels.
The support doesn't end with a roof. Jennifer also works with our Family Support Services Coordinator, Precious, on a regular basis. Currently, she is working to get documents needed to get her license back, pay off debt, and finally get dental insurance to have work done she has needed for some time.
When asked how this support has impacted her over the past year Jennifer said, "It makes me feel good I am taking care of something. I used to have really low self-esteem, I’d love it to be higher but it’s crawled up a bit."
Jennifer's advice to anyone seeking housing is "It might be a wait to get in, but it is totally worth it!" ACCT is committed to the growth of affordable housing in Addison County. As a non-profit, all donations go to support the development, maintenance, or support provided to residents.
ACCT staff members share news and information about upcoming events.