2017-04-20 / Front Page

State housing agency approves tax credits for housing projects

Springfield Woolson Block project among beneficiaries

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — A “big piece” of the funding for a renovation project in the Woolson Block in Springfield was approved by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners on Monday.

“It’s really going to be a shot in the arm for downtown Springfield once this is done,” said Springfield Housing Authority Director William Morlock on Tuesday. “This is another piece in turning around the downtown.”

The board committed federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Vermont Affordable Housing Credits for projects across the state over the next several years. The equity raised when investors buy tax credits is used to pay construction and renovation costs for apartments rented to low-income Vermonters. This amounts to the single largest source of funding for the development of affordable rental housing, all according to the VHFA.

The $2.5 million in 10-year federal capped credits, $610,000 in 10-year federal uncapped “bond” credits and $485,000 in five-year state credits will support the development of 272 affordable apartments in 11 communities across the state, according to the VHFA. Permanent and construction financing totaling $7.2 million was also approved for five of the projects.

Among the projects listed was construction of 20 new apartments in Springfield as part of redevelopment of the historic, mixed-use Woolson Block building at 39 Main St. The project is being carried out through a partnership between Housing Vermont and the Springfield Housing Authority, who were granted a revolving $200,000 loan from the Springfield Selectboard in August 2016 for the purchase of the property.

Plans for the building include renovations throughout, rental units upstairs, commercial units on the main floor, and a youth-in-transition program housed on the second floor. Morlock said local nonprofit Springfield on the Move is assisting the effort to fill the storefronts, and that “we’ve had inquiries already.”

Of the 20 apartments, one will house the resident manager for the youth-in-transition program, four will house transition program tenants, and the remaining 15 will be available as low income housing, according to Morlock.

For the Springfield project, the announcement means between $3 million to $3.5 million to be used for renovations. Based on increasing prices for new bids, and some unforeseen issues with the building, which was constructed in 1868, the initial estimate of $4.5 million for the project has been bumped up to $7 million, according to Morlock.

“This was 50 percent of the equity we’re going to need,” he said.

The youth-in-transition program would be carried out in partnership with Health Care and Rehabilitation Services and a number of other organizations, including Easter Seals and Windsor County Youth Services. The program currently operated by HCRS helps struggling youths age 16 to 22 by helping them prepare for the workplace with resume preparation and case management that can include assistance with housing.

“There’s a great need for that,” Morlock said. “There’s going to be a lot of agencies involved.”

He said that 45 local individuals were identified in the Springfield area that could have used the program.

Morlock said partners are still approaching other funding sources and investors, and that if all goes well construction could begin in early 2018.

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