Multigenerational Development Meets Housing Needs in Shelburne
Harrington Village helps to address the acute need for affordable housing in Chittenden County, Vermont. Credit: Housing Vermont Harrington Village and Wright House, a new multigenerational development in the town of Shelburne, Vermont, brings much-needed affordable housing to Chittenden County. Home to Burlington, the state’s largest metropolitan area, as well as several of Vermont’s largest employers, the county is a major economic center. A significant percentage of cost-burdened households, an aging population, and recent economic growth in Vermont being limited primarily to the relatively low-wage service sector have combined to increase demand for affordable and senior rental housing. Developed by nonprofits Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and Housing Vermont, Harrington Village includes 42 apartments spread over 5 buildings. Wright House, developed by Cathedral Square Corporation, includes 36 senior apartments with free in-home care-coordination services. Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity will soon add four for-sale homes in two duplexes on the site that will remain perpetually affordable through CHT’s shared equity program.
A Critical NeedCindy Reid, Cathedral Square Corporation’s director of development, says that there is a “critical need” for affordable housing in Chittenden County. A recent housing needs assessment found a rental vacancy rate of just 1.3 percent; many multifamily properties in the county have wait lists. Many county residents face housing cost burdens; 55 percent of renters spend 30 percent or more of their household income on housing, and 27 percent of renters pay more than 50 percent. In addition, the demand for senior housing is expected to grow in the coming years, with a projected increase of 22 percent in the 65- to 74-year-old cohort by 2020.
A Collaborative ResponseFor years, a for-profit developer attempted to acquire the tract that would eventually become Harrington Village and Wright House, along with an adjacent mobile home park, for redevelopment. The developer had difficulty securing local permits and abandoned the project in 2010. With advocates, including the neighboring Trinity Episcopal Church, pushing to preserve the mobile home park and build new affordable housing in the city, CHT and Housing Vermont stepped in to purchase the site. Building on what Reid calls a “cooperative culture” forged through a previous partnership on an infill development in the north end of Burlington, the two nonprofits invited Cathedral Square to join the project. CHT and Housing Vermont co-developed Harrington Village, while Cathedral Square independently developed Wright House. Housing Vermont coordinated the infrastructure shared by both, such as the roads and parking lots.
The Vermont Housing Conservation Board (VHCB) provided funds for both developments, which, along with the property’s size and attributes, allowed the nonprofits to carry on Vermont’s tradition of joining housing and conservation. CHT and Housing Vermont donated 13 of the site’s 22 acres to the town for conservation and recreation. The town plans to add a recreational path alongside the La Platte River.
The Wright House provides 36 units of low-income senior housing with access to the Support And Services at Home program. Credit: Sally McCay Photography
Harrington Village’s 42 apartments include 6 market-rate units, 25 units that are affordable to households at or below 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 11 units affordable to households at or below 50 percent of AMI. Project-based vouchers are available for three units, which are reserved for veterans at risk of homelessness. The 10 one-bedroom, 30 two-bedroom, and 2 three-bedroom apartments are spread over 5 buildings. Rents range from $740 for a one-bedroom unit to $1,225 for a three-bedroom unit and include heat, hot water, and snow and trash removal. The development is located within walking distance of restaurants, retail, and public buildings in the center of town and is also on a bus line.
Development costs for the 42 apartments totaled $10.7 million. Financing included a $6.3 million low-income housing tax credit equity investment and a $1.45 million loan from TD Bank, a VHCB loan, VHCB HUD HOME Investment Partnerships program funds, and additional support from NeighborWorks America and other sources.
The Wright House senior apartment building consists of 36 one-bedroom units, 3 of which fully comply with standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. All of the other units are adaptable, meaning that they can be made fully compliant with a few modifications. The apartments incorporate design elements to help residents age in place, such as vinyl plank flooring that accommodates assistive walking devices. Although the three-story building has two elevators, architects designed a centrally located birch stairwell to invite physical activity. Other amenities include a community room, gym, library, community kitchen, laundry facilities, beauty salon, storage, underground parking, computer room, outdoor walking loop, and a garden.
Cathedral Square offers all residents access to the Support And Services at Home (SASH) program, an integrated health services approach that focuses on preventative care and positive aging. Wright House has an onsite SASH coordinator and a wellness nurse. SASH is funded by Medicare at no cost to participants. Evaluation of the program finds medical cost savings and other benefits such as fewer falls and a higher likelihood that residents will have a primary care physician, annual checkups, and flu shots.
All of the Wright House apartments are assisted through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) vouchers for seniors with incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI, with a preference for households at or below 50 percent of AMI. Financing for the senior housing totaled $9.3 million and included $6.5 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from Enterprise Community Investment, $1 million from USDA Rural Development, and smaller amounts from additional sources.
A Replicable Success?
Together, Harrington Village and Wright House provide 78 desperately needed affordable apartments, most of them below market rate, near both recreational amenities and the village center. Reflecting the community’s high demand for affordable housing, all of the rental units were fully leased when the development opened in August 2014. The community celebrated the completion of the development at a grand opening attended by Governor Peter Shumlin and a large crowd, notes CHT director of community relations Chris Donnelly. Donnelly says that community support sustained the project through challenges such as an arduous permitting process.
Each of the nonprofits involved indicated interest in replicating the multigenerational model, although completing such projects will be challenging because of limited and declining resources. Housing Vermont vice president of partner relations Kenn Sassorossi points out that secondary funding sources are increasingly scarce, which makes acquiring enough land to accommodate a dual-use development difficult. Reid also fears that the lack of resources, particularly cutbacks to HUD Section 202 and USDA Rural Development funding for new construction, will make such projects less likely in the future. Yet in Shelburne and other places with tight rental markets and swelling numbers of older households, the need for developments like Harrington Village will only grow.
Patrick M. Bowen. n.d. “Chittenden County: Housing Needs Assessment,” 2, 5, Chittenden-1, Chittenden-15–6, Chittenden-37–8. Accessed 20 March 2015; Document provided by Cindy Reid; Email correspondence from Chris Donnelly, director of community relations, Champlain Housing Trust, 31 March 2015.×
Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015; Patrick M. Bowen. n.d. “ Chittenden County: Housing Needs Assessment,” 1, 4–5, Chittenden-19–20. Accessed 20 March 2015.×
Interview with Chris Donnelly, director of community relations, Champlain Housing Trust, 17 March 2015; Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015; Interview with Kenn Sassorossi, vice president of partner relations, Housing Vermont, 17 March 2015.×
Interview with Chris Donnelly, director of community relations, Champlain Housing Trust, 17 March 2015. Interview with Dean Pierce, director, Town of Shelburne Planning & Zoning Department, 8 May 2015.×
Interview with Chris Donnelly, director of community relations, Champlain Housing Trust, 17 March 2015; Document provided by Chris Donnelly.×
Document provided by Kenn Sassorossi, vice president of partner relations, Housing Vermont.×
Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015.×
Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015; RTI International and LeadingAge. 2014. “Support and Services at Home (SASH) Evaluation: First Annual Report,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, v. Accessed 20 March 2015; Document provided by Cindy Reid.×
Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015.×
Interview with Chris Donnelly, 17 March 2015; Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. 2014. “Harrington Village and Wright House Grand Opening Celebration.” Accessed 8 May 2015.×
Interview with Kenn Sassorossi, 17 March 2015; Interview with Cindy Reid, 20 March 2015.×