NeighborWorks gets $900K boost from grants

Article published Oct 28, 2016 in the Rutland Herald
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer

NeighborWorks of Western Vermont had a bountiful October, with grants totaling $900,000 bolstering its operating capital.

Executive Director Ludy Biddle said the organization has received $500,000 from a federal program for housing loans to underserved communities and $400,000 from Green Mountain Power.

“In both cases, it just sort of revs up our engines to be able to serve more people,” she said. “The (GMP) money will make it possible to expand our HEAT Squad with a third auditor on staff, serving more customers. The (federal) money, it’s basically mortgage lending — second mortgage, down-payment assistance and repair loans.”

The money from Green Mountain Power is from the utility’s Clean Energy and Efficiency Development program, created to repay ratepayers for a rate hike the Public Service Board approved to bail out Central Vermont Public Service in the early 2000s. GMP created the fund as part of its acquisition of CVPS.

“Our goal is to retrofit 150 homes including 30 heat pumps and 30 hot water heat pumps,” she said.

That will be on top of what they do annually. Biddle said the group takes on about 300 projects in a typical year, though last year they only completed about 150.

“Last year was low because fuel prices were low and temperatures were high,” she said.

Biddle said the third auditor has already been hired and each auditor does 350 to 400 efficiency audits a year, with about 40 percent of those becoming projects.

The federal money will be available for loans to households below 80 percent of area median income — a four-person household would qualify if they earned less than $54,000.

“It allows us to lend to households that might not otherwise qualify for mortgage loans at commercial banks,” Biddle said. “So far, this year we have assisted 47 households to purchase a home — in many cases their first.”

While the money might be spent anywhere in Neighborworks’ coverage area, the organization has been the city’s key partner in the revitalization effort in the Northwest Neighborhood, which could see a boost from the funding.

“Funding for rehabs for low-to-moderate income homeownership and funding for programs to reduce the cost of homeownership … have been identified as ways to strengthen our neighborhoods throughout the city,” Mayor Christopher Louras said. “Any funds they receive complement those efforts.”