By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger.org
Thirteen Vermont entities will receive more than $4 million in grants to make them more resilient, affordable, and accessible, Governor Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday, March 11. The grants are aimed specifically at helping small communities build affordable housing, improve public facilities and rebuild in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
The awards come just in time for construction season. “Spring is coming and soon these grants will lead to construction projects across the state that will help improve communities, grow jobs, and spur economic growth,” the governor said.
The recipients of the grants are: Athens, Barre, Brandon, Brattleboro, Chester, Hinesburg, Lyndon, Rochester, Warren, Washington, West Rutland, Westgate Housing, Inc., and Wilmington.
He said the grants will help ease housing prices for low-income Vermonters and give aid to towns that did not receive enough money from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration) after Tropical Storm Irene. The program was also the source of approximately $40 million to help the state recover from Irene and other major flood events.
Community representatives came to the governor’s ceremonial office to receive the awards. Also at the ceremony were representatives of Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch. Each member of the congressional delegation has played a key role in securing the funding that makes the program possible. The grants are funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program of HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). Patricia Moulton, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said the money represents partnerships among local, state, and federal governments.
Brattleboro, Hinesburg, Lyndon and Rochester will build 96 affordable housing units, including some for seniors, dividing grant monies totaling $2.1 million among their towns.
Athens, Brandon, Chester, Warren, Wilmington and Westgate Housing, Inc., each received disaster recovery grants totaling about $1.7 million.
Other communities received funds to continue offering financial counseling to low-income Vermonters; maintain their affordable housing revolving loan funds; bring town buildings up to code; or for planning grants.
Local grant recipients
West Rutland received a $850,000 subgrant for NeighborWorks of Western Vermont to continue its affordable housing revolving loan fund for home repairs and energy improvements, and for financial counseling to income eligible households.
Brandon will use $500,000 to rebuild its town office, formerly located by the Neshobe River. During Tropical Storm Irene the river overwhelmed the low-lying portion of Route 7, forcing the evacuation of the town offices.
The town of Chester will use a $108,000 Disaster Recovery Grant to replace an undersized culvert on Cavendish Road damaged during Irene.
The town of Rochester received a $30,000 subgrant for Rochester Community Care Home, Inc., locally known as Park House, to develop plans that will bring 15 units of affordable senior housing into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and make safety and energy efficiency improvements.