BARRE, Vt. – With limited housing options for some Vermonters displaced by Tropical Storm Irene, local, state and federal officials have unveiled a project that will provide housing through a private-public partnership.
Officials from the City of Barre, State of Vermont and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as congressional representatives, toured a formerly unoccupied apartment building that was recently renovated using almost $70,000 of federal money to provide housing for disaster survivors.
“This was a unique opportunity to leverage federal money to rehabilitate rental stock that is badly needed, not just as temporary housing for persons displaced by a disaster but for the public at large,” said Sue Minter, Vermont’s Irene Recovery Officer.
“FEMA has a number of innovative recovery programs available, and we’re committed to using all of those that apply,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer James N. (Nick) Russo. “The Multi-Family Repair Program was a great fit here.”
The Multi-Family Repair Program (MFRP) provides funds to renovate unoccupied multi-family rental housing units that need to be brought to a habitable standard in areas where existing rental units cannot meet the needs of disaster survivors.
According to Vermont officials, Washington County saw 154 mobile homes as well as 394 stick-built homes destroyed or substantially damaged in Tropical Storm Irene, in an area that was already facing a tight housing market. At least 30 buildings statewide were evaluated for suitability for MFRP use.
The owners of the property used in the MFRP agree to make the repaired rental units solely available to FEMA-identified disaster survivors for up to 18 months from the date of the disaster declaration.
The repair work must be completed by a licensed, bonded contractor within a specified time period after completing the agreement with FEMA, and must bring the property to required standards.
The multi-family rental building chosen in Barre was once located down the block where the new Post Office was built. Now on South Main Street, the apartment building has been renovated to provide five rental units.
“It’s a win, win, win for everyone,” said Steve Mackenzie, Barre City Manager. “It’s a win for the city. It’s a win for the landlord. And it’s a win for the new tenants who are able to take advantage of the program.”
Residents were selected on the basis of need. If a unit is vacated by the initial resident before the 18-month period of assistance is over, additional families may be identified to occupy the units through the end of the period of assistance.
“These funds have also assisted the local economy by providing jobs and economic activity associated with the rehabilitation of the housing units,” Minter said.
The Long Term Recovery Committees (LTRCs) of voluntary agencies have been actively engaged in the MFRP. Each family entering the program has been working with a case manager to identify and effectively find resources for their unmet needs, including the development of permanent housing plans.
Other resources that may be accessed through LTRCs include: financial planning, job placement after disaster unemployment, mental health services and, volunteer labo...