An affordable housing project with units for people experiencing homelessness is coming to the Severance Corners area.

The town is working with Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and Housing Vermont to apply for the Implementation Grant under the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP), which would allow for CHT to develop the affordable units as part of the approved Sunderland Farms project.

At a public hearing on Jan. 28, Amy Demetrowitz of CHT presented the application proposal to the selectboard, which the board approved. The grant award is limited up to $1,000,000, but the application is expected to receive between an estimated $750,000 and $800,000. No matter the award amount, the town voted to move forward with the application.

“There is such a high demand in Chittenden County. This spot rose to the top,” Demetrowitz said of CHT’s choice of Colchester’s Growth Center as the project location. She also noted Colchester’s recreation opportunities, proximity to I-89 and public transportation, and “great schools” as reasons for choosing the Severance Corners area.

“We feel its a great location for kids as well,” she said, noting the inclusion of single and multi-family units, as well as a daycare center in the Sunderland Farms plan.

The affordable housing project will develop a four-story apartment building with 36 new units; seven will be reserved for households experiencing homelessness; eight set aside as “market rate”; 28 will be tax credit units; and 11 will be affordable to households at 50 percent of Area Median Income. Two of the units will be fully ADA compliant, one unit will include audio-visual accessibility, and the building will be served by an elevator. The plan also includes an open space trail and a small picnic area leading to trail heads.

The units will be served by municipal water and sewer like the rest of the Growth Center and stormwater will be handled on-site.

The total project development cost amounts to $11,717,100.

According to the application, a shortage of affordable housing in Chittenden County continues to negatively impact the region, from economic development to public health. About 55 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities, and nearly 30 percent spend more than half of their income on housing.

To afford an average two-bedroom apartment, a household in Chittenden County would need an annual income of $53,680, at a wage of $25.61 per hour, in order to spend less than 30 percent of income on rent and utilities.

That wage is more than two and a half times the current state minimum wage, which the senate recently approved to raise just short of a dollar by 2021. However, the Governor vetoed the bill on Feb. 10.

To secure the VCDP grant, the town must apply on behalf of the project. If awarded, they will then grant the funds to CHT—”no more federal or state strings attached,” confirmed Town Manager Aaron Frank. The grant application and fund transfer will be at no cost to taxpayers, but may impact town staff administrative duties.

The affordable housing project is included in S.D. Ireland’s Sunderland Farms development on the south-east corner of Severance Corners. At the public hearing, Demetrowitz noted CHT hoped to break ground on the project in September.

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