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French Block

  Vermont Housing & Conservation Board

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Overview

The French Block, located along a historic downtown block on Main Street in Montpelier, VT, was an ambitious development that rehabilitated 18 second and third floor apartments that had been vacant since 1937. The architect for the project worked unsuccessfully with five different clients over the last 35 years to rehabilitate the building before Downstreet Housing & Community Development, the local affordable housing developer, took it on, working with Housing Vermont.

Prior to rehab, code violations pertained to exits, fire separations, ADA shortcomings, structural deficiencies, hazardous materials, energy shortcomings, leaking roof, antiquated electrical, plumbing and heating, and deteriorated finishes. The developers persevered, and after residents moved in, citizens were delighted to see that once again, the “lights are on” in this core downtown building. The residents live within easy walking distance of the market, pharmacies, the library, services, public transportation, and health care providers.

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Place

Located in the middle of a capitol city with a daunting shortage of housing, the French Block’s vacant upper stories were an unrealized resource. Today, with the lights on at night, there is a new vibrancy to this downtown block and 18 households have found stable, decent, and affordable housing within walking distance of all the amenities this small city provides. Along with stable, affordable housing in a convenient location, the apartments are now free of hazardous materials such as lead paint, asbestos, and PCBs. Energy efficiency measures will reduce operating costs, increasing sustainability as affordable housing and minimizing the carbon footprint, while ensuring resident comfort.

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People

One of the first new residents to move in was Cindy McCloud. She appreciates the historic details and the character provided by retaining the original trim work and brick walls. Location is also key for her. “I have grandkids in town,” she says, “One of them comes over after school before his music lesson. I told him, ‘You’ll have to come to my new place.’” It’s conveniently located right along his route. Being downtown also makes getting out in any weather possible. “Now I can even walk in the winter,” Cindy said. Right next door is a small, independent movie theater, across the street is a drugstore, and within 100 yards is a market.

Today, there are 18 new apartments in the heart of downtown – three are HOME units, affordable to households between 30 percent and 50 percent of median income, nine are affordable to households between 50 percent and 80 percent of median income, and one is specifically designated for a homeless household. Residents in the 16 one-bedroom and 2 studio apartments include seniors and one- and two-person households.

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Partners

Downstreet Housing & Community Development (the local affordable housing development organization) and Housing Vermont (statewide low-income housing tax credit syndicator and developer) were the nonprofit developers. The city designated $175,000 from the city’s Housing Trust Fund (raised from a $.01 charge per dollar of assessed value of real estate subject to property tax), a $5,000 municipal contribution, and a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) loan. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, an independent state agency, committed $652,000 in state, federal HOME Program, and Lead Paint Hazard Abatement funds. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency allocated tax credits to the development and made a $360,000 loan through the New England Federal Credit Union. Tax credit investors were the TD Bank and Northfield Savings Bank. Funding was also contributed by Efficiency Vermont, Vermont’s energy efficiency utility, and NeighborWorks.

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Project Costs

Funding Sources Cost
HOME Investment $225,000
LIHTC (if applicable) $3,059,694
Other Federal Funds $1,646,981
Other Public Funds $1,225,749
Private Funds N/A
Total Project Costs $6,157,424

Snapshot

Participating Jurisdiction: Vermont Housing & Conservation Board

Project: French Block

Location: Montpelier, VT

Program Type: Rental Housing

Beneficiaries: Households between 30% and 50% of median income, households between 50% and 80% of median income, homeless households, and seniors.

Number of Units: 18

Number of HOME Units: 3

More Information:

Tel: 802-828-5075

Web: https://vhcb.org/montpeliers-french-block-historic-preservation-with-18-energy-efficient-apartments


Key Results

The historic restoration of the French Block put 18 previously long vacant apartments back on the market, serving low- and moderate-income households in a downtown setting. The French Block development increased energy efficiency while keeping the historic character of the building intact and created permanently affordable housing.


Words of Advice

A strong collaboration between state, federal, and municipal entities helped achieve the multiple affordability, energy efficiency, and historic preservation goals.