Committed to Providing Decent, Affordable Housing for all Communities
Construction is at the core of our initiative at Bennington County Habitat.
By building and repairing homes, we create affordable homeownership and home repair opportunities in partnership with income eligible families.
Through our Home Repair Program, we do minor exterior home repairs and build ramps with people in need of affordable repair solutions. Our ramp projects have helped homeowners stay in their houses and come home from health care facilities. Helping homeowners remain safely in their houses is critical work here in Bennington County.
Our Homeownership Program helps qualified homebuyers become homeowners of highly energy-efficient, safe, decent houses. Homebuyer partners must have the need for housing, a willingness to partner, and the ability to pay an affordable mortgage. Every homebuyer partner makes a $500 down payment, saves closing costs, and puts in a minimum of 200 hours of sweat equity. The sweat equity requirement applies to anyone in the household who is 18 years of age or older.
Family Moves Home
Janet Brown and her family moved home in late 2021 to their new, highly energy-efficient house in the Jennifer Lane Neighborhood of Manchester Center. Janet and her son and mother now live in a comfortable, single-story house in the community where they work and go to school. They are glad to be living in the community they love!
As of 2022, Bennington County Habitat for Humanity has built twenty-nine new single-family houses, completely renovated one house, and rehabbed another house. In partnership with income-qualified families, we have provided homeownership opportunities all over the county, in Arlington, Bennington, North Bennington, Manchester, Pownal, Shaftsbury, West Pawlet, and West Rupert.
The Jennifer Lane neighborhood in Manchester was our first large-scale development, with a total of 22 lots. The North Branch Street development in Bennington is the affiliate’s second largest project and now is home to seven families.
“Jennifer Lane” began in 2006 when Town Manager Pete Webster told us about available land along Jennifer Lane. We were unable to seriously consider a purchase at the time, but the idea persisted.
In 2007, the Town of Manchester discussed the need for affordable housing in its Town Plan, acknowledging the pressure exerted on Manchester’s housing market by the town’s attractiveness to retirees, second-homebuyers, and families relocating from urban areas. They were concerned that many residents wondered whether their children would be able to stay and raise families in their hometown. The Town set goals to address the issue, including one to create opportunities for affordable housing and another to work cooperatively with non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, to help ensure the availability of affordable housing.
In early 2008, Manchester’s Town Planner Lee Krohn brought the Jennifer Lane property to our attention again. This time, we were able to act on the idea, and in September 2009, The Town of Manchester approved our development plan. By March 2011, Bennington County Habitat owned 11 acres at Jennifer Lane, enough land to build 22 affordable houses.
On May 6, 2012, the first partner’s family moved home to Jennifer Lane. As of 2022, eleven (11) families have moved into highly energy efficient, soundly-built, decent, affordable houses in the Jennifer Lane neighborhood as partners through our homeownership program.
All the homes come with deed restrictions that make them permanently affordable for future homebuyers. The deed restrictions are made possible by funds granted by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for each house in the development.
Infrastructure work at Jennifer Lane was made possible through a generous contribution from the James and Irene Hunter Foundation. Without that gift, Bennington County Habitat would not have been able to take on a project of this magnitude.
A private developer, Vermont Traditional Builders, built and sold one house on one of the Jennifer Lane lots. Prior to selling the house, Vermont Traditional Builders purchased the lot from Bennington County Habitat. We hope to form similar partnerships with other private developers.
The Town of Manchester’s idea for affordable housing has been made possible, in part, by Bennington County Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program. More than a decade after Town Manager Webster first mentioned there was land available on Jennifer Lane, eleven (11) families have partnered with Bennington County Habitat and numerous supporters of affordable homeownership to buy truly affordable homes in Manchester Center.
The Town of Bennington remains in desperate need of affordable housing for the people who make a living there. Many workers live elsewhere (for example, across the border in New York State) and commute into Bennington because the cost of living is too high compared to what people are able to earn in wages.
Bennington County Habitat for Humanity developed three adjacent lots on North Branch Street (296, 320 and 334 North Branch Street) in the Town of Bennington. We demolished the blighted house at 296 North Branch and removed the trailer at 320 North Branch. We rehabbed the existing residence at 334 North Branch and sold it to a partner family through our homeownership program. Energy efficiency work was the affiliate’s main concern at this house, which we believe was built in the 1930s. Through the hard work of volunteers, the energy efficiency work completed on the rehab resulted in a 58.9% air sealing reduction and an estimated 44% of total heat savings.
Mance Engineering prepared a Development Sketch Plan for the three North Branch Street lots. Based on this plan, six families have purchased newly constructed homes. These families will be income-qualified as Habitat partner families. We intend to keep these houses perpetually affordable to people earning less than the area median income. The Town of Bennington approved the Site Plan for this new development in August 2016.
We began construction of our first single-family house with the Kornn family at the end of May 2016, and the family moved home in April 2017. We began our second house in development in the fall 2016 through an exciting partnership with the Southwest Career Development Center. The students of the CDC’s Building and Trades Division, under the able direction of Instructor Brian Coon, are building this house and will complete it in the 2017-2018 school year. The house will be sold to an income-qualified family through our Habitat homeownership program. The Forestry and Heavy Equipment Division of the CDC had a hand in preparing the development of infrastructure and road work.
Through the summer of 2017, Mark Onorato Excavating put in the infrastructure and road (Corcoran’s Way) for the North Branch Street Development. The Town accepted the dedication of the road in late 2019. By December 2020, six families were homeowners along Corcoran’s Way.