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Seniors enjoying new city housing: officials point to project as a model

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Posted on May 24, 2012 |
By Kaitlyn Kirkaldy



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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS chats with some of the residents of Vergennes Senior Housing before a ceremony Monday marking the completion of the affordable housing complex on Armory Lane. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

VERGENNES — Larry Carlson was on the waiting list for an apartment in the Vergennes Senior Housing building for more than three years. Once construction began, he checked back every week to see if he would get in. Now a resident of the newly opened facility off Armory Lane, he is thrilled with his experience.

“As soon as the architect first came out, I was over to the offices and signed up. I was here every single week to check and see how the progress was coming,” said Carlson.

At an open house Monday morning, Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) Executive Director Terry McKnight said that Carlson’s satisfaction with the project was typical.

“You can look around and see the faces of the people that now live in that building. If you talk to any of them, they’re really enjoying it,” McKnight said.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined McKnight and representatives of Housing Vermont, ACCT, and other project contributors to celebrate the opening of Vergennes Senior Housing. The $6.2 million facility will provide 25 affordable and energy-efficient apartments to seniors.

The facility was paid for through a mix of public and private funds, from People’s United Bank, various Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, Vermont Housing Finance Agency, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Vermont Community Development Program and Efficiency Vermont.

Sanders secured $380,000 for the project in a HUD grant.

“This is exactly the kind of housing we should be building,” Sanders said. “Not only does it meet the significant need for quality and affordable senior housing , but it does it in a very energy-efficient manner.”

Nancy Owens, president of Housing Vermont, acknowledged the importance of creating affordable housing.

“One of the great things about this property is that it’s affordable to people with a range of incomes, that it’s welcoming to the entire community and lots of different people can live here,” Owens said.

All speakers emphasized the balance between affordability and energy efficiency.

“This is a great project because it exemplifies everything that is right about affordable housing: mixed income, energy efficient, it works, it’s accessible, it combines public and private money, and it’s in a space where it created jobs,” said Art Casavant, vice president of People’s United Bank.

The 25,244-square-foot building will not only provide comfortable residences for two dozen Addison County seniors, but itwill also serve as a base for the local Meals on Wheels program, and there will be twice-a-week senior luncheons, as well as a range of events for residents and for the whole community.

The project took years to develop and months to complete. Ultimately, everyone involved is thrilled with the outcome of their hard work.

“This is a building that took a lot of planning, a lot of work, and created a lot of jobs, and really came out a beautiful building with the most advanced energy systems possible,” McKnight said.

Owens called attention to the numerous energy-efficient features of the project.

“We have the solar panels on the roof, we have the wood-pellet boiler, we are looking at energy efficiency in this building where we will have about 50 percent of the energy costs compared to a similar building. This helps us keep our rent affordable in the long haul,” said Owens.

Beyond providing affordable and sustainable housing to seniors, Vergennes Senior Housing has been designated as the first site in Addison County for the Services and Support at Home (SASH) program.

“SASH is a HUD program to reach out to people on Medicare in the county and help coordinate services for them in their homes or their apartment buildings where they live, and to help support people to continue to live independently. We’re organizing that in Addison County,” said McKnight.

With the project successfully built, many hope to build similar developments in Vergennes and in the rest of Vermont. However, there is a two-year moratorium on grants for such projects, so Sanders will be unable to obtain more funds, according to his staff.

Mayor Michael Daniels expressed his desire for future projects, and Owens has similar hopes, adding that it is feasible in Vergennes.

“We do own the property that surrounds this building and have hopefully some future plans for some more housing and maybe a childcare center, so hopefully the neighborhood can continue to grow and to serve the community,” Owenssaid.

Carlson spoke for the residents and added his seal of approval.

“This is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It houses us beautifully, the apartments are just phenomenal, and the staff that you have in this particular building and working at the office are great. I just wanted to let you know that we are super pleased with everything.”

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