Sanders applauds $740M in housing funds

By Sue Allen, The Bennington Banner

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s recent announcement that, this year, a record $740 million will be released to the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to build, preserve and rehabilitate affordable rental housing for low-income families — $29 million more than was allocated in 2021. The National Housing Trust Fund, which Sanders helped create in 2008, delivered $3.1 million to Vermont last year. The Vermont allocation for 2022 will soon be announced.

Sanders first introduced legislation to create the National Housing Trust Fund in 2001, based on the success of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. The HTF is the first new federal housing resource for creating affordable housing in more than a generation, the senator said in a news release.

“To my mind, decent, safe, and affordable housing is a basic human right,” said Sanders. “It is completely unacceptable that so many Vermonters are struggling to find affordable housing, that nearly 600,000 people are unhoused in this country, that seniors have to choose between buying life-saving medications and paying the rent, and that working families are one paycheck away from becoming homeless. This funding increase is an important step in ensuring affordable housing for Vermonters and people across the country.”

One in four Americans spend at least half of their incomes on housing and utilities. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report has Vermont ranked as the 16th most expensive state in the country when comparing the cost of a modest two-bedroom apartment with wages. A minimum wage worker in Vermont must work 81 hours a week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, and Vermont has the sixth largest affordability gap between the average renter’s wage and the rent for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the release.

Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, which administers the National Housing Trust Fund in Vermont, said, “National Housing Trust Funds play a large part in helping to create and rehabilitate housing serving Vermont’s most vulnerable households, especially for the many individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness as a result of the pandemic. We appreciate Senator Sanders’ leadership over many years in helping to establish and ensure continued funding under the program.”

Over the last year, Vermont’s share of the National Housing Trust Fund has helped jumpstart important projects across the state, including at Brattleboro’s Red Clover Commons 2, where funding from the housing trust helped finance 18 newly constructed homes for the former residents of Melrose Terrace, which suffered severe flood damage during Tropical Storm Irene.