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Brattleboro Area
Community Land Trust


192 Canal Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

(802) 254-4604

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overview and History

Frequently Asked Questions

The Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust (BACLT) was organized and incorporated by a group of concerned citizens in August 1987 in response to increasing threats to the region's supply of affordable housing. BACLT's overall purpose is to acquire and hold land and housing in trust in order to provide permanent access to decent and affordable housing for low and moderate income residents of Windham County, Vermont.

Since 1987, BACLT has created nearly 450 units of permanently affordable housing in eleven municipalities throughout Windham County. Homes include single-family dwellings, duplexes, mobile home park lots, multi-family cooperatives, rental units, shared elderly housing, single-room occupancy units, and service-enriched housing for people with special needs. The Land Trust currently serves more than 950 residents, 41% of whom are children.

BACLT serves individuals and families, people with disabilities and special needs, and the elderly. Special needs housing serves families transitioning from homelessness, the Deaf, individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and people living with life-threatening illness, including HIV/AIDS. The vast majority of our programs and housing units are targeted to the low and very low income population, those earning less than 80% and 50% of the area median income, respectively.

Above: The Whetstone Apartments on Canal Street, renovated in 2004

The majority of Land Trust housing (79%) is currently located in the Town of Brattleboro, the region's most populous community where essential infrastructure, including municipal sewer, water, and transportation enhance opportunities for successful multi-family housing development. Seventy-four percent of BACLT's housing units are considered "family housing," designed with adequate space and bedrooms to accommodate the needs of families with children.

Since 1987, BACLT has helped to restore neighborhood pride, stability, and sense of community through extensive housing rehabilitation work. The Land Trust has taken severely dilapidated multi-family properties (considered "untouchable" by most private developers) and transformed them into decent, safe, and attractive affordable housing for lower income families.

The impact of BACLT's housing development work has extended beyond the organization and its properties to have a positive, far-reaching impact on the well-being of the region and its citizens. BACLT's rehabilitation work has helped to eliminate blight, rejuvenate buildings, transform neighborhoods, and restore and preserve precious historic landmarks.

Most important of all, the Land Trust has had a profoundly positive impact on the lives of many families and individuals throughout Windham County, providing them with healthy, safe, affordable housing as well as specialized support services.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust?

Who lives in BACLTs affordable housing?


Does BACLT attract low-income renters to the area?


Where does BACLTs funding for its housing projects come from?


Why does it cost so much to create affordable housing?


Since BACLT is a nonprofit corporation, are its properties removed from the local tax rolls?


How do communities benefit from BACLTs housing development activity?


Youve created a lot of affordable housing alreadyis there a need to create more?


With all of the funding received for its housing projects, why does BACLT reach out to private citizens, businesses, and United Way for additional financial support?

What is the Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust?

The Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust (BACLT) was organized and incorporated by a group of interested citizens in August, 1987, in response to increasing threats to the regions supply of affordable housing.

BACLT is a nonprofit, member-controlled housing development corporation. The Land Trusts overall purpose is to enhance the quality of life of low and moderate income citizens; to preserve and revitalize neighborhoods; to foster diversity; and to improve the social, economic and cultural health of communities of Windham County. To accomplish this, BACLT acquires, rehabilitates, and holds land and housing in trust, providing permanent access to decent and affordable housing for low and moderate income citizens of the county.

To date, BACLT has created and preserved the affordability of nearly 450 units of housing, which currently serve 950 residents, 41% of whom are children. Housing units include single family homes, rental housing, shared elderly housing, single-room occupancy units, and service-enriched housing for families and individuals with special needs.

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Who lives in BACLTs affordable housing?

BACLT serves families and individuals, men, women, and children of all ages, persons with disabilities or special needs, and the elderly.

The vast majority of BACLTs tenants and homeowners are local families who have lived in the Windham County area for a long time. A 2004 survey of all BACLT residents revealed that both renter and homeowner households have lived in the region for an average of over 20 years.

BACLT residents are largely working people, employed by many area businesses. Our residents are employees of the Town of Brattleboro, Price Chopper, Brattleboro Retreat, the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Omega Optical, the State of Vermont, GS Precision, Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, Pepsi, Eden Park, and C&S Wholesale Grocers, to name a few.

The Land Trust also serves the housing needs of the communitys most needy families. These individuals and families typically have incomes at or below the poverty level. For example, this would mean an annual income of less than $21,000 for a single individual.

And finally, the Land Trust serves moderate income homebuyers. To date, BACLTs homeownership program has assisted 50 families with the purchase of an affordable home, enabling them to enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of homeownership for the first time.

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Does BACLT attract low-income renters to the area?

NO. The answer is no for a variety of reasons.

First, we (almost without exception) purchase occupied properties. When we purchase a multi-family property with plans for renovations, we temporarily relocate all of the households residing in the building. After the rehabilitation is completed, these same residents are given priority and the first option to re-rent their original apartment. Therefore, BACLT's renovation of buildings causes no change in the building's population or in the neighborhood's population. The only change is the condition of the property.

A typical BACLT resident family has lived in the area well before they obtain housing through the Land Trust. 2004's annual resident survey showed that BACLT residents have lived in Windham County, on average, for over twenty (20) years. The vast majority of our residents were born and raised in Windham County.

Studies of the area housing market and wages show that there is a significant unmet local need for affordable housing. Over 50% of Brattleboro's renter population is low-income (earning less than $20,000 annually). Of these low-income households, only half (or about 600 renter households) currently have subsidized housing. The need remains for the other half of our community's lower income families to have access to decent, safe, and affordable housing.

Therefore, there is exists a large low-income renter population in Brattleboro with unmet housing needs. It is this population that BACLT is targeting for our housing opportunities.

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Where does BACLTs funding for its housing projects come from?

Since 1987 , BACLT has raised more than $30 million in grants and loans for the purchase, rehabilitation, and construction of housing.

BACLT has accomplished its work by using a wide variety of private and public funding sources. For example, BACLT has received tax credits, bank loans and subsidies, and has competed for and received funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Community Development Program, the Vermont statewide HOME program, and the Lead Hazard Reduction Program. In addition, BACLT has been a grant recipient of HUD Special Purpose funding, HUD 312 funding, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston grants, private foundation grants, and has developed project equity through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

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Why does it cost so much to create affordable housing?

The cost to create a unit of affordable housing can seem staggering, often approaching $200,000 per housing unit. This total represents not just construction cost, but the total cost of developing the housing, including the cost of acquisition, architectural and engineering fees, development fees, the cost of relocating residents during construction, interest expense, and operating costs during construction.

Creating permanently affordable housing is expensive for a number of reasons.
First, the projects targeted by the Land Trust often entail the purchase of severely dilapidated properties, considered untouchable by most private developers. These projects tend to be expensive because the condition of the building is typically so deteriorated.

Second, BACLT is required to meet stringent development guidelines for housing quality and safety because it receives public funds for its rehabilitation work. Development guidelines include lead paint abatement requirements, historic preservation standards, federal energy efficiency standards, Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, anti-displacement regulations, and other state and federal mandates. These mandates are good public policy, but they do add cost.

Third, high quality and durable rehabilitation is required to ensure affordability for many generations to come. Public funding is available for the initial rehabilitation, while rents must finance ongoing maintenance and repairs. While initial construction costs are increased, higher quality rehabilitation up front often results in the least overall costs when the building is owned for a long period of time and is maintained in good condition.

A significant factor in the overall cost of developing affordable housing has been the escalation of construction costs. The nonprofit sector has experienced increases in the cost of new construction and rehabilitationover the past five yearsat an average annual rate of 8.9% and 10.9% per year, respectively. This increase is similar to that experienced by school construction projects in Vermont, where costs have increased approximately 10% per year during the same period. Because the cost of construction is such a large portion of the total housing development budget, when the cost of construction goes up it has a major impact on the overall budget.

While some have suggested that it would be more cost-effective to tear a property down and rebuild (rather than rehabilitate), this is typically not the case. The per square foot cost of new construction has averaged about the same as renovation costs, and when the cost of demolishing and removing the building is added in, rehabilitation becomes even more cost effective. Furthermore, historic properties often have materials that are more durable than what can affordably be included in a new construction project.

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Since BACLT is a nonprofit corporation, are its properties removed from the local tax rolls?

NO, never. BACLT always pays taxes on the land and buildings it owns. In 2005, BACLT paid more than $120,000 in property taxes to the Town of Brattleboro alone, and over $10,000 more to other communities throughout Windham County. And, the rehabilitation of substandard properties by BACLT has tended to increase municipal property tax revenues. Despite the fact that Land Trust properties are assessed at a slightly lower rate because of rent and resale restrictions, the value of BACLTs properties often increase dramatically after rehabilitation work is completed, increasing the taxes paid on those properties. These increases, as well as tax increases on improved neighboring properties, can lead to growth in local tax rolls.

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How do communities benefit from BACLTs housing development activity?

Beyond the benefit to its low and moderate income residents and to the properties, BACLTs housing development activities have also had a far-reaching impact on the overall well-being of the region.

BACLTs housing work has resulted in the infusion of millions of dollars in state and federal funding into the regional economy, contributing to overall community stability and economic health. Especially important in times of recession, the local purchase of materials and supplies related to housing construction has a ripple effect, generating additional income and jobs in the local economy.

Leaders of business and industry also understand the critical importance of attracting and retaining employees. The availability of affordable housingwithin reasonable proximity to jobsis a factor in an employers decision to locate their business in a particular region. By providing affordable housing to local workers, BACLT helps maintain a diverse pool of employees.

In addition, BACLTs work has clearly served as a significant catalyst for neighborhood improvements and other reinvestment activities, which have collectively restored neighborhood appearance and pride. This has been particularly true in the Clark & Canal Street and Spring/Elliot Street neighborhoods of Brattleboro, where BACLT has concentrated its revitalization efforts. Property owners, business owners, local officials, and renters all talk about how improved the neighborhoods are, and how the improvements have enhanced the quality of life for the whole Brattleboro community.

In addition, the restoration of historic properties maintains the fabric of Vermont neighborhoods, and improves the overall appearance of towns and villages. And, the availability of affordable housing ensures that one of lifes necessitiesa place to call homestays within the reach of all of the citizens of our community.

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Youve created a lot of affordable housing alreadyis there a need to create more?

Recent studies have researched the need for affordable housing and the current supply, firmly concluding that there is still a pressing need to create affordable rental housing opportunities for lower income residents in order to fill a longstanding gap in the county's affordable housing stock.

Vermont has the lowest vacancy rate for rental housing in the nation, indicating an extremely tight housing market. Families in Windham County must now earn $14.58 per hour in order to afford a modest two bedroom apartment. While this is more feasible for a two-income household, among local renters there are as many single parent households as two-parent households. A 2003 study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that 49% of Windham County's renter households are unable to afford the average two bedroom apartment.

There is a significant lack of affordable housing on the homeownership side, as well. In a report commissioned by the Vermont Housing Council, the median purchase price for a home in Vermont rose to $182,000 in 2005, a 87% increase from 1996, and a 10% increase from the year before. To purchase a median income home in 2006, a family would need a household income of $65,000. However, the median income in Vermont in 2006 was only $45,700. Moreover, the conversion of primary residences to seasonal housing is further exacerbating the problem. In 2004, one out of four homes sold in Windham County were converted to second homes.

Despite the Land Trust's work, the supply of affordable housing in Windham County has not kept pace with the need for affordable housing. Conservative estimates indicate that more than 1,850 units of additional affordable rental housing are needed in Windham County to meet the needs of all of the county's low- and moderate-income households, including families and the elderly.

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With all of the funding received for its housing projects, why does BACLT reach out to private citizens, businesses, and United Way for additional financial support?

BECAUSE WE NEED TO. Just like many other local nonprofit housing and human service organizations, BACLT must raise sufficient funding each year to pay for essential staff and overhead costs, which are not fully supported by our grant sources. Only a very small percentage of the grant dollars we receive for our housing development projects are available to support our general operating costs. For this reason, we rely on the ongoing generosity of the community.

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