CHT to Launch Technical Assistance Program

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust announced today that it is launching a technical assistance program to support community-based housing nonprofits achieve their goals and strengthen their operations. The new program, called TA\CHT, will be led by outgoing CEO and longtime housing leader and practitioner Brenda Torpy.

The services will focus primarily on the needs of Community Land Trusts both in Vermont and across the nation as a response to the country’s housing crisis and need for community-based solutions. Services range from start up support for new organizations or programs, to supporting staff and board leaders, and fundraising assistance.

The program is set to launch in January. For an overview of the services, download our program description here.

CHT Buys Ho Hum Motel for Covid-19 Isolation and Quarantine Facility

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust announced today that it purchased the Ho Hum Motel on Williston Road in South Burlington to serve as an isolation and quarantine motel to help address and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Vermont. The purchase and some minor renovations was made possible by a grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board using federal CARES Act funding appropriated by the State Legislature.

“As we see what appears to be a second wave of the coronavirus, it is critical that anyone who has symptoms, or who has traveled out of state, or tested positive have a safe place to live either under quarantine or isolated from friends and family,” explained Michael Monte, chief operating officer of the Champlain Housing Trust. “If you are experiencing homelessness, or live in a congregate setting, isolating or quarantining is simply impossible without a property like this one – especially as we get into the colder months.”

The housing trust began leasing the property at the beginning of October pending the purchase for $1.5 million this week. Prior to October, the organization’s motel Harbor Place in Shelburne had served the same purpose on an interim basis between March and September, serving roughly 100 individuals over that period.

When renovations are complete, the new facility will have the capacity to provide up to 34 rooms at a time. It’s now serving up to 16. The operating cost and meals for guests are covered by the State’s Agency of Human Services. The housing trust has staffing around the clock and every day of the week.

This is the third property acquired by the Champlain Housing Trust in response to the pandemic in the past six weeks. In Colchester, a new, expanded shelter for Steps to End Domestic Violence will have the capacity to serve 21 families and individuals, and the Baymont Inns & Suites in Essex Junction is being converted to 68 permanent apartments for people moving out of homelessness. People just started moving their apartments at this property, renamed Susan’s Place after a long time staffer Susan Ainsworth-Daniels who passed away earlier this year.

Staff Promotions Announced

Posted on Monday, October 12, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

Following the announcement of a CEO leadership transition this summer, the Champlain Housing Trust is making additional changes in its leadership team. As Michael Monte prepares to take over as CEO in January, 2021 from Brenda Torpy, his chief financial officer duties will immediately be assumed by Cheryl Read.

Read is currently the Director of Human Resources and Chief Administrative Officer. A resident of Charlotte, she has worked for CHT since 2008, initially with CHT’s Housing Loan Fund before transitioning into her current role in 2017.

Amy Demetrowitz, Director of Real Estate Development, will be the new Chief Operating Officer beginning in the 2021. Demetrowitz has more than 25 years under her belt at the organization, developing hundreds of affordable homes and multiple community buildings in her tenure. She and her family live in South Burlington.

“It goes to the strength of the organization to have people of this caliber and experience ready and able to assume these added responsibilities,” Torpy said.

In July, CHT announced the departure of its longtime CEO, who helped found the organization in 1984 and has been leading it since 1991.

CHT and Steps to End Domestic Violence Announce New Shelter and Expanded Services

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust and Steps to End Domestic Violence jointly announced plans to establish a new shelter serving those escaping domestic and sexual violence in Chittenden County. CHT acquired the property with Coronavirus Relief Funds made available in the CARES Act, which were allocated by the State Legislature through the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

CHT has hired J.A. Morrissey to renovate what had been the Handy’s Extended Stay Suites on Route 15 in Colchester, and will be leasing it to Steps.

A major driver of homelessness is domestic violence – people fleeing their homes, with or without children, to flee abusive relationships. Typically, Steps to End Domestic Violence supports 35 households per night in the State-sponsored hotel system because the current Steps shelter can only house seven in a congregate setting. When the pandemic hit, that number was further reduced to three or four that could stay there safely.

CHT purchased the property at the end of September and is currently renovating the property to provide Steps with increased capacity to serve up to 21 households, with capacity for both individuals and families with children. This work will be complete in the next couple of months.

“While we have recognized the need for a larger shelter facility to better respond to the need for trauma-informed emergency housing for years, the pandemic has only heightened this need and made it more urgent,” said Nicole Kubon, MSW, Executive Director of Steps. “This new shelter will provide us the ability to maintain social distancing, enhance the services we are able to offer and bring the work of ending domestic violence more visibly into the community.”

Compounding the space challenges are those relating to services: with people sheltering at home since the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic violence has skyrocketed. The number of people served by Steps to End Domestic Violence increased from 40 in March, 2019 to 62 this March – an increase of over 50%.

“The Champlain Housing Trust and Steps have been working towards finding a new home for Steps for a couple of years now. CHT was pleased to be able to step in and support this critical community organization that serves people in perhaps their time of greatest need,” said Michael Monte of CHT. “The State’s allocation of these resources through VHCB is helping address this significant need to address people’s safety and health in the midst of a pandemic.”

While the location of the current shelter was kept confidential for the safety of the people staying there, the new one takes a different approach. “The departure from a confidentially located shelter to a publicly located shelter and office space will require heightened security measures but will also provide us with an opportunity to bring the issue of intimate partner violence out of the shadows,” explained Kubon. “It encourages community engagement, support and collective responsibility for the safety of all people in our communities.”

Kubon also stressed that the new shelter “will allow for more dignity for people when their lives are uprooted by violence and can support some added level of normalcy by being able to have family or friends visit during the day, or ordering food delivery on a Friday night. It also means we can stay better connected to survivors once they've re-established their lives, free from violence, in the community.”

Building Homes Together Campaign Releases Progress Report

Posted on Monday, October 05, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Building Homes Together Campaign, formed in 2016 to encourage production of housing in Chittenden County, released its annual progress report that showed continued overall success in new housing being created, but a persistent lack of affordable homes.

“Over the first four years of the campaign, we have seen steady development of housing even as we have not kept pace building housing for those having trouble making ends meet,” said Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, which along with the Champlain Housing Trust and Evernorth (formerly Housing Vermont) leads the campaign.

The campaign, supported by over a hundred local and state officials, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals, set a five year goal of 3,500 new homes in Chittenden County with 20% of them permanently affordable. This amounts to an annual target of 700 overall homes with 140 affordable; the average over the first four years is 787 homes, and only 112 of them affordable.

“We did see a spike in 2019 of new affordable homes with 169 built, but that followed three years of missing our target,” added Nancy Owens, co-President of Evernorth. “The increase in 2019 demonstrates that new capital from the Housing for All Revenue Bond passed in the State of Vermont in 2017 was essential to meet this critical housing need, but it hasn’t been enough.”

Other economic, social and public health factors are in play. “While 2020 has been consumed by the coronavirus and calls for racial justice, it’s also been a year where safe, decent and affordable housing has been even more obviously lacking in our communities. We need to do better,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust, noting that at one point this summer there were 2,000 homeless Vermonters living in hotels and motels.

In fact, projections on the number of homes that will become available in 2020 look grim, according to data compiled by Allen, Minor and Brooks. They estimate 255 apartments will be completed, though these projections were made before CHT’s planned motel conversion into 68 apartments was understood, and do not include single family homes. Still, the total of 323 is significantly below the average number of homes added over the past four years.

“While housing production has been steady, we are still not at a good vacancy rate and must build even more housing to get to a healthy housing market in Chittenden County. We call upon all policy makers – local, state and federal – to make housing, especially for low-income households, a priority as we move forward. For the future of learning, health, the economy, racial justice, and more, housing must be at the center of a response as we look to 2021 and beyond,” the three organizations said in a joint statement.

The Building Homes Together campaign was initiated by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont, now Evernorth, in 2016. The campaign’s goal is to increase the production of housing, setting a target of 3,500 new homes created over next five years, with 700 of them permanently affordable. Over 100 local and state officials signed on to the campaign. More information can be found at

Brenda Torpy to Step Down as CEO

Posted on Monday, July 20, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust’s Board of Directors announced today that CEO Brenda Torpy will step down at the end of 2020 after leading the organization for nearly 30 years, and that current Chief Operating and Financial Officer Michael Monte will be hired as its next CEO beginning in January, 2021.

Torpy was a founding member of the organization over 35 years ago when she worked in the office of Mayor Bernie Sanders and its first Board President. In these roles she was trailblazer for a new type of affordable housing called a Community Land Trust, which grew locally and more recently, across the globe. CHT is the largest Community Land Trust in the world.

“When Brenda announced her decision to step down as CEO at the end of 2020, the Board of Directors of Champlain Housing Trust knew immediately what an important moment this was after her many years at the helm of CHT,” said Bob Robbins, President of the Board. “All of us recognize and our grateful for the tremendous contributions that she has made and continues to make to Vermont communities as an internationally recognized leader and advocate for affordable housing and social justice.”

When Torpy took over leadership of the organization in 1992, it had created almost 50 homes, mostly in Burlington. Today, CHT counts over 3,000 homes of all types throughout northwestern Vermont serving people experiencing homelessness, homes for people with special needs, affordable apartments for the working class, and a pioneering, shared equity homeownership program that removes financial hurdles for buyers while creating housing that is permanently affordable. 

It is this last program that helped earn CHT the United Nations World Habitat Award in 2008, and sparked the model’s spread internationally. 

“It’s been the honor of my life to build this organization as a leader in our communities and in the field of affordable housing. I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity help to build the Community Land Trust movement across the US and in other countries – work that I look forward to continuing,” said Torpy. “I am thrilled that Michael will be here to continue advancing a lot of the work we’ve done together over more than three decades. Knowing how resilient the organization will continue to be under his leadership makes this transition easier.”

“Michael will help us build on Brenda’s visionary leadership and ensure a seamless change through uncertain times,” added Robbins. “His commitment to the mission of CHT, his long record of innovative achievement, his strong connections to our Vermont partners, and internal board and staff relationships, all convince us that he is the best leader to navigate this historic transition.”

“It’s an honor to be asked to lead the Champlain Housing Trust and build upon Brenda’s leadership,” said Monte. “It’s a challenge I look forward to tackling with the support and participation of the Board, our dedicated staff, our volunteers and this great community.”

The Champlain Housing Trust is a Community Land Trust that supports the people of northwest Vermont and strengthens their communities through the development and stewardship of permanently affordable homes and related community assets. Founded in 1984, it is the largest Community Land Trust in the country. Throughout Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, CHT manages approximately 2,400 apartments, stewards 628 owner-occupied homes in its signature shared-equity program, offers homebuyer education and financial fitness counseling to more than 1,000 people annually, provides services to five housing cooperatives, and offers affordable energy efficiency and rehab loans.

New Programs to Help Struggling Vermonters with Housing Costs

Posted on Monday, July 13, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

Renters and homeowners who have lost income due to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for assistance under two new programs established by the State of Vermont.

Rental Housing Stabilization ProgramAll renters who have been impacted can seek support to help pay missed rental or mobile home lot payments. Information on how to apply and the rules of the program can be found on the Vermont State Housing Authority's website. CHT is reaching out directly with all of its own renters that we know who have missed rental payments to encourage them to apply. This is a first-come, first-serve program. Payments are made directly to landlords on behalf of rental households and come along with eviction protections. Applicants do not need to show proof of citizenship.

Mortgage Assistance ProgramHomeowners who have been impacted by the pandemic can apply for a mortgage assistance grant through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. This program has income eligibility guidelines and has an enrollment period between now and August 31, with grants made for as much to three months of mortgage payments as resources allow after October 2, 2020. The grant amount awarded may not be as much as the full amount owed and the borrower is still responsible for outstanding payments. CHT is also reaching out to its homeowners to let them know of this opportunity

CHT advocated for these programs and encourages all impacted financially by the public health emergency to take advantage of them to provide you some economic relief. 

Statement on the Violence Against Black and Brown People

Posted on Thursday, June 04, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust's Board of Directors passed the following resolution June 3rd:

WHEREAS George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota which is just the latest act of violence against black and brown people in the United States; and 
WHEREAS racial inequality is rooted in our nation’s history of slavery and structurally maintained by public policy, and especially in housing and community development programs that have created and sustained segregation; and 
WHEREAS no place in America is free from our past and no place in America is safe for people of color; and
WHEREAS white privilege is real, and black lives matter; and 
WHEREAS the Champlain Housing Trust develops and stewards land and affordable housing for use by the community and one quarter of the residents in CHT homes are people of color; and 
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Champlain Housing Trust Board of Directors declares that we stand with the black and brown people of our country seeking justice. We mourn with them and we share their righteous anger and demands for justice. We commit CHT to working with others to create a future with equity at its core.

UPDATED: CHT Response to COVID-19

Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

[Update: Saturday, April 18, 2:30pm]

We hope you're safe and healthy, and managing okay under the circumstances. Life will slowly get back to normal, but it will take some time. Thank you for all you're doing to protect public health.

Below we have compiled a number of programs to help you. It is important for you to know what is available, but please be cautious about scams during this period as always.

With the first steps of loosening the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, you may start to see a little landscaping or outside work around your properties. This is a small step to return to some normalcy. There will be additional ones, but for now it is important that we continue to practice social distancing, wear masks in public, and wash hands regularly to keep us all safe.

As always, please reach out to your property manager if you need help.

[Update: Wednesday, April 15, 2:30pm]
We've launched a new Covid-19 Response Fund, as we didn’t have a budget for all of the costs associated in responding to the coronavirus, but in these times we’re not asking “how much does that cost?” We're prioritizing public health. 

Many of us have just received stimulus funding from the Federal CARES Act deposited in our bank accounts. Some of us will need this money to get by, or have a family member or friend who needs assistance.

If you are able, please consider supporting CHT with some of these funds. It is clear to us that everything we've expended to date – which is approaching $100,000 – won't be covered by federal funds. Our guiding purpose is to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors, and all of us, stay safe. Please support us if you can.

[Update: Friday, April 3, 2:35pm]

A lot has transpired in the last couple of weeks and we wanted to update you on our efforts and thank you for your efforts in your own lives to adapt and make public health a priority. 
We know it’s a very difficult time. 

We just instituted a new electronic communication tool, and will continue to find ways to effectively communicate with you. We know at the forefront of your mind is your ability to make ends meet, including whether you can pay your rent.
We understand if you’ve lost employment and cannot pay your rent in April, May or even beyond. We won’t – and advocated that we couldn’t – initiate any eviction processes during this state of emergency and until people are back on their feet. It is helpful to hear from you so we may be effective advocate for your needs, so please be in touch with your property manager. 
We recently blocked off the playgrounds at some of our properties, and we’ll be instituting a “One Household at a Time” policy in elevators. We encourage you to restrict visitation to only those essential guests so prevent the spread of the virus. We are planning on opening up community gardens where we have them, though we will need people to continue to engage in social distancing and if public health needs dictate, we could take the action to close them.

All of our staff are continuing to provide service over the phone, video or email. We are here to help with your needs. 
If you have lost employment or income and are having a hard time making your mortgage, property tax or other payments, please be in touch – we can help you work through this difficult time. We will waive any late fees for missed lease or membership payments.
Tax Related Reminders: Every Vermont homeowner must file a Homestead Declaration (HS-122) every year – even if you are not required to file a Vermont Income Tax Return. The Homestead Declaration allows your city/town to charge you the lowest possible property tax rate. If someone else files your taxes, verify that this has been done. 
Also, if your household income is less than $140,000 you may also be eligible for a property tax rebate, but you will have to file a State of Vermont Property Tax Adjustment Form (HS-144) to apply.
Even though the deadline to file your income taxes has been extended, the State of Vermont encourages you to file now if you can.

[Tuesday, March 17, 9:30am]

A message for our tenants:

Your well-being and safety, and the health and safety of our staff, is of utmost importance to us in response to this public health emergency. We are writing to let you know of additional steps we have taken and ones that are in progress to keep you informed:

  • First, we have closed our offices to outside visitors to practice “social distancing” and installed an intercom system at 88 King Street. We are avoiding face-to-face meetings. Please call or email your property manager if you need to reach them.
  • If you need to drop off your rent payment or other paperwork, please use the mail slots at our offices or, better yet, put it in the mail or send an email. If you haven’t signed up to pay your rent online, you can do so from our website.
  • We are limiting maintenance responses to emergencies only. Please understand that we need to prioritize health and safety at this point. If you have an emergency need, call 861-3076.
  • If your job(s) or income has been impacted by the pandemic, please let us know. These are challenging times and we are here to support you. We are compiling a list of resources and will share those on our website as soon as possible. We will not initiate eviction if you cannot pay your rent because of the pandemic.
  • We are hoping to be able to communicate shortly by email or text message. Please stay tuned for this.
  • We have increased the number of times that we wipe down common areas, elevators, door handles, laundry rooms and other places in your building.
  • Lastly, please stay safe and make sure you wash your hands upon entering your apartment. Keep your hands away from your face, and practice social distancing. If you feel ill, please limit contact with others.

These are challenging times, but we want you to know that we are doing everything we can and we will keep you informed of our efforts.

[Saturday, March 14, 2020, 1:30pm]

CHT continues to monitor news reports and are working to implement best practices in response to COVID-19. Our staff’s safety and the safety of the people we work with is of utmost importance.

Starting sometime on Monday, we will be closing our doors to the public. All of our offices will be closed to visitors, and staff have been instructed to make alternative arrangements to carry out their business. Activities such as counseling appointments and meetings with tenants, among others, will all done by phone or video conference. Staff will be in touch with clients and residents to make arrangements.

An intercom should be in place at the front door at 88 King Street in Burlington on Monday.

We encourage any payments, submission of applications or other documents to be done through the mail, deposited in our mail slot or filed/paid electronically.

We will continue to refine our plans for essential functions and will communicate that in the coming days.

In the meantime, general guidance for both staff and the general public:

             Stay home if you’re sick, and if you have a fever, contact your medical provider.

             Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

             Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

             Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

             Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

             Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

             Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands.

Please stay safe.

[Thursday, March 12]

CHT continues to monitor the COVID-19 virus. We are regularly updating our procedures and protocols to insure our residents and staff are safe. Staff are being advised to monitor their own health and to take extra precautions. 

In our efforts to maintain a healthy environment for staff and residents, we ask that if you are feeling ill to please stay home and not come into our offices in Burlington, St. Albans, or at our properties. If you need to meet or speak to a staff person, please call and speak to that person over the phone.  

If you are a renter, there are options to pay your rent online through the resident portal, mail in your rent or drop it into one of our drop boxes.  

When you have a request for maintenance please let us know if you are ill and have any of the following symptoms so that our technicians can be prepared: fever, cough, or shortness of breath.  

We may get to the point where we are only responding to emergencies, such as no heat, no hot water, fire or leaking water.  If this happens, we will communicate that decision.  

And you may be tired of hearing it by now, but the emphasis on hand washing comes from the fact that the virus breaks down well in soap and water. Scrubbing for twenty seconds and keeping your hands away from your face as much as you can are important steps in stopping the spread of the virus.

Up to date information on the situation in Vermont can be found at the Vermont Department of Health's website.

Responding to Covid-19, Harbor Place Becomes Isolation Motel

Posted on Sunday, March 22, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

We provided the following message to residents of Shelburne yesterday (Saturday, March 21, 2020) via Front Porch Forum:

We have all heard that the most effective tool to stop the spread of the coronavirus is social distancing and washing hands. These prevention measures are virtually impossible for people living in a shelter, in an encampment, or on the streets. Without options for these prevention measures, we won't be able to effectively control the spread of COVID-19 anywhere, or do what's necessary to flatten the curve of those becoming sick.

Champlain Housing Trust is working with the State of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center to use the motel rooms at Harbor Place to provide isolation for those exhibiting symptoms of the virus, but not those who have tested positive. We are working with Town of Shelburne officials to address community concerns and protect public health.

Over the next week or so, the State will be establishing roughly 380 rooms across Vermont for people who are homeless and are exhibiting symptoms/presumptive positive cases, where hospital treatment is unnecessary but the individual needs to be isolated.

In addition, numerous Congregate Recovery Centers (CRC) will be established throughout the State. The CRC is a facility for medical respite/shelter for people who tested positive and/or are being released from the hospital for COVID-19 treatment. Harbor Place is NOT one of these centers, and any guests at Harbor Place testing positive for COVID-19 will be moved to a CRC or the Medical Center.

The sole purpose is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus more broadly.

What you should know: 

  1. Current guests are being relocated to other motels in the region by the State. 
  2. We are immediately prohibiting all visitors at Harbor Place 
  3. We are planning for food for guests. We are still figuring out the best way for the community to help with this effort. 
  4. We are adding security and fencing to help reinforce the need for guests to stay on site.

A more comprehensive management plan and protocols will be posted on our website and shared here in the next couple of days.

We understand that this may cause concern for some. Please know that we are responding quickly to this crisis because we fear by waiting we could see exactly what's happening in Italy now. This is a concerted effort, coordinated by the State, to prevent the virus from spreading further.