RUTLAND, VT – NeighborWorks of Western Vermont (NWWVT) received a $500,000 grant from NeighborWorks America that enables the organization to expand its comprehensive community revitalization strategy in Northwest Rutland by piloting a youth employment initiative and an innovative home maintenance course for women as well as renovating vacant houses into beautiful homes that are healthy, safe, efficient, and affordable.

NWWVT is embarking on an exciting new youth employment initiative that pairs culinary and business skills for 14-18 year olds from Northwest Rutland entering the workforce. The youth employment initiative is just getting off the ground, but this is the idea: teach six youths how to prepare local vegetables and fruits into healthy, delicious food for sale or donation. The initiative will use the commercial kitchen at the Vermont Farmers Food Center to take local produce and create value-added products, and then either selling them at the farmers market, to school cafeterias, and/or donating them.

“We Can Fix It: Home Maintenance Education for Women,” designed by NeighborWorks’ Onsite Project Manager Morgan Overable, is a hands-on, deep-dive into the household structures and mechanisms that frequently drive renters and homeowners to their wits ends.

“This course,” says Overable, “is designed to empower women to understand and take control of the mysterious infrastructure of their living environment. Female head-of-households will develop an understanding of how their homes function and a working knowledge of the tools that every homeowner or renter should have on hand in case of something unexpected.” The second of three pilot courses starts September 26. It was fully enrolled within 48 hours of being posted.

Additionally, the grant enables NWWVT to make physical improvements to the Northwest Rutland neighborhood. NWWVT will take four vacant, undesirable, and unsightly properties and turn them into healthy, safe, efficient, and affordable homeownership opportunities, specifically targeting current renters in the neighborhood and giving them the coaching and support to become homeowners. Another property that was razed by NWWVT will become a Habitat for Humanity build site with NWWVT’s project management and support. A fifth property, blighted and decrepit, will be razed and the open space produced will restore the block to its historical nature.

The renovations, demolition, and new construction will address the market conditions of crime, blight, and depressed property values by completely rehabilitating vacant houses into beautiful homes. The over-improvement of the renovations is intended to spur increased private investment in the neighborhood, which is already starting to happen.

This layered strategy has proven effective and sustainable. The first two renovations were sold before the properties were listed on the Multiple Listing Service to households earning less than 80% of AMI, the park/playground developed on a plot that had been razed is well utilized and maintained by residents, and the green space created by the razing of a blighted building is used regularly for well-attended community events. On the second of two Community Impact Measurement surveys completed three years apart (2013 and 2016), residents reported greater neighborhood satisfaction, higher feelings of safety, and increased desire to buy in the neighborhood. This revitalization strategy is feasible, comprehensive, and impactful.

Project Reinvest grants were designed to provide support for housing counseling, neighborhood stabilization, foreclosure prevention and similar programs. The one-time grant was one of 55 awarded nationwide and the only award granted in Vermont.

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NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is committed to sustainable homeownership for Vermonters. We work to help Vermonters become educated about finances and home ownership, find homes to purchase, get the loans they need to buy homes, and renovate their existing homes to make them more livable and cost-efficient. We believe that homeownership supports people and families in living healthy and stable lives.

 

September 12, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact:           Shannon Kennelly, Communications & Outreach Coordinator

Tel. (802) 797-8606    Email.  [email protected]