Brattleboro affordable housing to increase substantially


BRATTLEBORO >> In one week, seven renovated apartments in a historic building will be available to families on Canal Street.

The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust is completing renovation of the Victoria Apartment building at 13 Canal St. Built in 1896 by William Stuart, Victoria Apartments is listed on the National Register of Historic Places .

"My excitement about this whole thing on a gut level is working with families who are so desperate for affordable housing," said Tim Callahan, Director of Property Management at WWHT. "It's a fabulous opportunity for the people in town who are looking for affordable housing."

Stuart was a Massachusetts-based artist who created a modern apartment buildings including a private bath for each apartment, rather than common bathrooms. He also installed solid brass plumbing and beautiful gas-fed lighting fixtures. WWHT has retained the original three-story bay window on the front facade as well as the original ornamental woodwork, both exterior and interior to the structure.

The renovation work includes energy upgrades and updates and replacement of the floors, windows, appliances and fixtures. There are seven apartments — six spacious two-bedrooms and one one-bedroom. However, this Canal Street renovation is the first of five in one bundled project that will be complete in one week. The other building renovations will be complete by the end of 2016 and are located at Clark Street, Green Street and Cross Street.

"It's mind boggling just to see the expression on these people's faces to get a home and not bust the bank," said Callahan.

According to Wendy K. Harrison, the Director of Development and Community Relations at WWHT, this renovation for the Victoria Apartment is "on schedule." The last time it was renovated was 15 years ago and they plan all of their upgrades on a long-term basis.

"They're beautiful apartments inside of a really important building that sets the tone for town with the detailing on the outside," said Harrison.

Harrison notes that the original layout that was set by Stuart is still the layout today with renovation and all. In addition to the structure, she adds that location is convenient for working people as it is walking distance from down town.

"It's great to keep that building fiscally and financially healthy," said Harrison.

The apartments at Canal St. range from $575 to $784 a month, according to Callahan and there is only one apartment that has yet to be filled. While Callahan says the apartments are centrally located and affordable, he also emphasized WWHT's commitment to efficiency.

"Just knowing that they have an energy efficient building makes it easy to maintain. It's a whole package with the funding and sustainability, it's a win-win,"Callahan said. "We have a much smaller carbon footprint in Brattleboro because of the work being done."

Since November of 2015, WWHT began de-constructing, which involved ripping out the few walls, renovations in the kitchen and bathrooms and creating a more secure building. WWHT installed an intercom system that allows owners of the apartment to speak to guests at the front door and unlock the front door if they so wish from their apartment.

The Green Street property construction is next on the list and should begin within the next weeks and will be compete by the end of the summer, according to Callahan. The other apartments range from $575 to $800 for one to three bedrooms. Callahan also mentioned that rent has not increased dramatically, but is around $30 more than prior, however some have increased less than that dollar amount.

Harrison said the project comes from a mix of funding, but is generally supported by private funding. Harrison says the federal government wants to encourage affordable housing, which is different than low-income housing. Affordable housing is funded through tax incentives.

"Affordability comes in a lot of flavors," said Harrison

Callahan noted that while some of the prior tenants of the Victoria Apartments have chose to live elsewhere, he is excited that they are able to house individuals who have struggled with homelessness.

"What's interesting is the definition of homeless is a difficult concept for different people and in this case, we are housing folks that were in an temporary emergency shelter situation," said Callahan. "People just don't understand what homelessness is and in this case they're just regular people living in a tough spot."

If anyone would like to inquire about WWHT's available apartments for this project, contact their property management department at (802) 246-2115. Harrison notes that there is a lot of paperwork but their "very good" customer service will help individuals through it.

"I can't begin to express my complete sense of overwhelming satisfaction working with the team of professions here who work so hard to provide affordable housing options to so many," said Callahan .

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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