No place like home

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PUTNEY >> There is a new face at the Locust Hill Mobile Home Park who is the first homeowner to purchase an energy efficient modular home under a specific USDA program.

For the past six years, Dennis Miller had made the 13-mile commute from Brattleboro to work as a chef at the Putney School. But now, he saves the environment by driving less and will kick back in a space that is energy efficient all around. In celebration of National Homeownership Month, Miller purchased a modular home through the USDA Rural Development's Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Program.

"One of the features I like that no one has mentioned is that you can't hear traffic or anything outside because there's so much insulation and the walls are one foot thick, so there's virtually no noise from outside," said Miller. "Then hence also the fact that the energy efficiency makes it very affordable, no utility bill."

The sale of the home was closed last week and those who made this purchase possible gathered at Miller's home last Tuesday to celebrate. The modular is a Vermont-made Net Zero Energy Capable VERMOD and was placed in the Locust Hill Mobile Home Park that is owned by Windham Windsor Housing Trust. Miller noted he is "positive" modular homes will become a growing trend in the area, especially if the process becomes quicker. He noted this process took about one year for him.

"Once they organize it to the point it's less painful in terms of time, it will be easy for everyone," said Miller. "And I think a lot of younger couples will be attracted to it."

The purchase of this modular home was completed with financial support from Champlain Housing Trust, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Efficiency Vermont and USDA Rural Development. Miller's home includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms, about two dozen solar panels on the roof (7 kilowatt system), thick insulation, energy efficient lighting, tier 3 energy efficient appliances, Mitsubishi air source heat pump, condensing dryers, CREV air exchange unit, triple paned windows and several other features. Free tours of other VERMOD homes can be arranged by calling 802-295-0042.

"Every year across Vermont and New Hampshire, the Vermont New Hampshire jurisdiction celebrate this by doing more than just talk about it, we try to get out and help a new home owner," said Ted Brady, Vermont and New Hampshire State Director for USDA Rural Development.

The USDA's Pilot Program allows low-income homebuyers to purchase a "high-performance" modular or manufactured home in a manufactured home park with a 30 to 33-year mortgage at 3 percent interest. According to Brady, this program is authorized every year by Congress, where the USDA Pilot Program makes a direct loan to a customer.

Rural Development and Windham Windsor Housing Trust celebrated Miller's new home and homeownership month during a service project at the Locust Hill Mobile Home Park, where residents and other community members joined staff in cleaning the park and planting a community garden. Brady noted at the celebration that homeownership helps build community and equity and defines Vermont uniquely as he says the state has a high home ownership rate.

"People got around a table and said, rather than just build a better manufactured home, let's go to the modular approach because it really builds in durability, resiliency from storms and big events that we don't want to happen but we expect they're going to happen," said Brian Pine of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation/ Efficiency Vermont. "The long term ownership of this home allows for the family to be able to know that after they've paid of their mortgage , they have an asset that has value and can be used for their children or their own retirement. It's a value that stays with the home."

"All across Vermont, too many families are struggling with high housing costs and high energy costs," U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., stated in a letter read by his spokesman, Aaron Rosebluth. "That is why this program is such a wonderful opportunity for Vermonters, helping them gain access to high quality housing that is affordable and incredibly energy efficient."

Miller said he hopes to become more engaged with his new neighbors and possibly host some parties for gardening among the park community.

WWHT Board Vice Chair Greg Hessel noted Miller has been a client with WWHT for six years and he is the ideal resident with a success story that they "live for."

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


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