At the invitation of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan traveled to Vermont to address the need for greater access to affordable housing in rural states.
"In the midst of a serious shortage of affordable housing, we are delighted that Secretary Donovan came to Vermont to meet face-to-face with housing leaders," Sanders said. "Not only is this an opportunity for Vermonters to learn about recent HUD initiatives, but it is an opportunity for the secretary to hear from Vermonters about the very real challenges of providing affordable housing in a rural state."
After meeting on Nov. 17 with housing advocates in Sanders' Burlington office, Donovan was the keynote speaker the following morning at the biennial statewide housing conference. With the Senate in session, Sanders participated in both events by video teleconference from Washington, D.C.
"Vermont has been a leader in designing affordable housing for some of our nation's most vulnerable individuals and families," Donovan said. "But we also know that one size does not fit all when it comes to building vibrant, sustainable communities of opportunity in Vermont and other rural states. That's why HUD is committed to working across the administration - and with champions like Sen. Sanders - to marshal support that truly addresses the diverse challenges and opportunities our rural communities face."
Sanders, who invited Donovan to Vermont, urged the secretary to ensure that federal housing policy emphasizes the needs of rural states and small cites. "HUD has been a partner in many of the efforts to create affordable housing in Vermont and it is imperative that HUD remains at vital partner to helping solve the affordable housing crisis in rural states like Vermont," Sanders said.
The discussion in Sanders' Burlington office with Donovan and Vermont's affordable housing leaders focused on the successes of Vermont's innovative non-profit housing network, some of the challenges of developing affordable housing in Vermont. The state's housing advocates shared with the secretary the need for HUD to focus on the housing needs of rural and small states.
"Federal dollars intended to benefit low- and moderate-income households should be available to families whether they live in New York City, or Rutland, Vt.," Sander said.
Sanders, a former Burlington mayor, said one of his proudest achievements as mayor was starting the first municipally-funded community land trust in the nation. The Champlain Housing Trust is now the nation's largest community land trust, with more than 4,000 members and 2,000 affordable homes in northwestern Vermont. The concept has spread: there are now community-based housing trusts covering in every area of Vermont, and they have become the foundation of a unique-in-the-nation affordable housing network.
The conference, organized by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, is Vermont's biennial gathering housing advocates, builders, legislators, local planners, non-profits, realtors, lenders and service organizations.
Twenty workshops were planned for the housing conference. The workshops include sessions that will address federal housing policy, mortgage lending changes and a "roadmap" for energy efficiency.