VermontBiz Becoming a homeowner is a goal of many, but with the sharp and steady rise of Vermont home prices, what used to be a challenge to attain has been pushed even further out of reach for low to middle-income Vermonters. A Shared Equity homeownership program, such as the one offered through Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, can bridge that divide and create a path to homeownership for many who otherwise would never have the opportunity.
Shared Equity Homeownership has been a longstanding program of the Housing Trust, established in the 1990’s under the Community Land Trust model. Eligible buyers receive down payment assistance of up to 35% of the total price of a home, lowering the amount the buyer needs to finance. In return, that home remains affordable to all future homebuyers through resale restrictions. Funding is through the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.
“One of the Community Land Trust principles is balancing individual wealth-building versus ensuring future generations have the opportunity to buy a home in the community,” says Elizabeth Bridgewater, Executive Director of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust. “We want people to build wealth, we want people to save. If you live in this house for 10 years, there’s a good chance that you will build equity. You will get back what you put in, and you’ll be in a much better financial position to move on and buy somewhere else.”
The tradeoff comes when it is time to sell --the homeowner doesn’t get to pocket the total appreciated value. The affordability stays with the home.
2022 was a banner year for WWHT’s Shared Equity program. Historically, the Housing Trust sees one or two transactions a year. Last year, there were nine. Although there were a few resales, the majority of the last year’s transactions were buyer-driven, meaning new homes were brought into the program. There are now 140 permanently affordable homes in WWHT’s program.
There are parameters to the program that limit the pool of eligible real estate. The sale price of the home must fall within a specific range, under $250,000. There are geographic constraints as well, with most eligible towns located along the I91 corridor.
WWHT board member Chuck Collins has a background in affordable housing, and a deep knowledge of the Shared Equity/Community Land Trust model. He is proud of the Shared Equity program’s longevity, its success, and its promise for the future. “There are not a lot of Community Land Trusts across the United States. Vermont really holds a lot of leadership in this area.” He recalls his learning from New Communities – one of the earliest Community Land Trusts – early in his career.
“WWHT is a great example of what we hoped would happen. Part of its role is to maintain that pool for future generations, and keep adding to it. If you add ten units every year, you start to create a pool of housing that is going to stay anchored and rooted in the community. And it’s going to be available to moderate-income homebuyers – the Missing Middle – in perpetuity. It evens the playing field a little.”
Windham & Windsor Housing is a mission-driven non-profit organization, established 35 years ago in response to increasing threats to the region’s supply of affordable housing. Their mission is to strengthen the communities of Southeast Vermont through development and stewardship of permanently affordable housing through ongoing support and advocacy for its residents. WWHT builds concrete solutions to the region’s housing challenges, and provides better housing opportunities to more than 1,500 Southeastern Vermonters each year.