BRATTLEBORO — Shovels came out Tuesday to celebrate the start of constructing a new housing complex that the governor called a "very smart" and "innovative" project.
"I very much appreciate being in a job office where things get done," Gov. Phil Scott said to laughs before going outside for a ceremony for what will become 23 apartment units in Windham & Windsor Housing Trust's Snow Block housing development at 29 Flat St. "This is really special."
The building is named after the housing trust's founder and longtime executive director, Connie Snow. Construction is expected to be completed by next September or October.
Current WWHT Executive Director Elizabeth Bridgewater said Brattleboro has a very low vacancy rate and is in need of new residences.
Youth Services will have an office on the first floor of Snow Block to provide resources to children and families. Five of the apartments will be reserved for individuals earning between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income, or up to $60,000 a year.
"We're also prioritizing some of the apartments for some of the folks with the most modest incomes and we're pairing that with rental vouchers provided by the Brattleboro Housing Partnership," said Bridgewater, who also sees the project as part of a larger effort to revitalize Flat Street.
Bridgewater thanked Scott for making housing a top priority in his administration from the beginning. About $1.5 million from the state's Housing for All Revenue Bond, which the governor proposed and was passed into law last year, has been committed to the project estimated to cost more than $7 million.
Snow Block received about $5 million in housing tax credits administered by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, which were purchased by People's United Bank. Federal funds — $490,000 from the HOME Program and $292,178 from National Housing Trust — have also been secured.
Bridgewater said the building will leave a minimal carbon footprint. Involved in its design and development are Stevens & Associates, John F. Penney Consulting Engineers, Dubois & King Inc., Eco Houses of Vermont and JD Kantor. ReArch Construction is tasked with construction management.
Scott said heat pumps for heating and cooling, a rooftop solar array and an "intense" thermal envelope will result in energy efficiency.
"With this design, no fossil fuels will be used on site except to power an emergency generator — something we can be proud of," he said. "This is a great project."
State Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, told Scott, "I personally want to thank you for your leadership on this."
"It's projects like these that I know, decades from now, I will look at my time in Legislature and be so proud of this project and proud of the work we did together," she said.
Housing and Community Development Commissioner Kate Buckley of Guilford is "such a treasure for us here in Windham County," Balint said, "and we worked across the aisle many, many hours, working to guarantee that [the housing bond] would make it through both chambers."
Scott thanked legislators at the event — Balint, Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Windham-4, and Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D-Windham-2-2 — for their work on the housing bond that he said would "leverage the single largest investment in housing in the state's history."
"We talk a lot about housing, the need for housing, and we've talked about it for probably the last two decades I was in Legislature but we don't get off from the talk because we can't agree as to who gets the housing," Scott said. "So what I'm trying to do is focus on the goals. And if we can agree that we want more housing, let's just do it. Let's figure out a way to accomplish that. And we were able to do just that."
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Executive Director Gus Seelig called Windham County "a community that gets stuff done and figures out how to work together."
"We are going to meet the goals that were set by the Legislature for 550 homes," he said of statewide efforts related to the housing bond. "I think we'll meet the 650 number and it's been a great partnership all over the state."
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.