U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Thursday, Sept. 13, that Vermont will receive $3 million from the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) to build, preserve and rehabilitate affordable rental housing for extremely low-income families. This is the third year in a row that Vermont will receive a $3 million allocation from the Trust Fund, which Sanders helped create.
In Vermont, the National Housing Trust Fund is administered by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Executive Director Gus Seelig said, “the Trust Fund has already provided essential assistance to seven projects all across the state, with 182 affordable homes for some of our most vulnerable households, including some which had been homeless or were at risk of homelessness. Five projects in Brattleboro, Rutland, Marshfield, Putney and Poultney have already been completed, and developments in Randolph and Burlington will be completed next year.”
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. Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and funded through a small assessment on the government-sponsored housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Trust Fund is the first new federal housing resource in more than a generation. It is also the first program exclusively targeted to help build housing that is affordable to people with the lowest incomes.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), nearly 8 million of the poorest Americans spend at least half of their incomes on housing and utilities.
“When you spend half of your money on rent, that leaves very little for other necessities such as food and healthcare,” Sanders said. “Stable and affordable housing is not only essential to live with dignity, but without it, economic opportunity is simply an illusion. It makes it very difficult for families to keep up, and near impossible to get ahead or save for retirement or higher education.”
NLIH’s annual Out of Reach report ranked Vermont as the 13th most expensive state in the country when comparing the cost of a modest two-bedroom apartment with wages. Sanders wrote the preface for this year’s report, which documents the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States.
“We are thrilled that Vermont will receive its third year of funding from this important new federal housing program,” said Erhard Mahnke, coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “Our members are among the first in the nation to tap this resource to help reduce homelessness and provide safe, stable and affordable housing for low-income working Vermonters, seniors and people with special needs.”
Nationally, the Trust Fund has already helped build 129 affordable housing developments, and many more are in the queue. “This is a very good start,” Sanders said, “but it is clear we have a very long way to go. Unfortunately, President Trump has proposed zeroing out the Trust Fund for the past two years. To my mind, that is incredibly short sighted. Instead, we should significantly expand the program to meet the huge demand for affordable housing here in Vermont and across the country. And in the process, we will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”