On Wednesday, November 14th the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), an independent state funding agency, accepted a Smart Growth Achievement award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.. VHCB accepted the award in the “Policies and Regulations” category, in recognition of policies that utilize smart growth principles to guide funding decisions, supporting affordable housing development, historic preservation and land conservation projects with beneficial effects on the environment, such as conserving open land and wildlife habitat, cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields, and developing housing in population centers with access to various transportation choices.
Very few states have combined the goals of affordable housing and land conservation within a single state agency, and VHCB has been a pioneer in this regard for more than 15 years. That structure is the basis for the agency’s “smart growth” approach. Embedded in program policies governing housing and conservation investments are considerations of the impact of proposed projects across the various goals of the agency’s mission.
Since its establishment in 1987, VHCB investments have proven to be an effective community development tool to support Vermont’s traditional settlement pattern of compact downtowns and villages surrounded by working farmland and woodlands. Over 20 years, state investments of $205 million have helped to construct and rehabilitate more than 8,500 affordable homes, to conserve 367,770 acres of agricultural and recreational land and wildlife habitat and to preserve historic buildings for public use, while leveraging more than $750 million from other sources.
Ken Perine, Chair of the Board, said, “We are gratified to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with this prestigious award. The policies that guide our investments are helping to keep Vermont a vibrant and beautiful state, while promoting economic development, attracting tourism and supporting the agricultural economy.”
Gus Seelig, VHCB’s director, said, “This recognition reflects Vermont ingenuity in defining housing, agriculture, historic preservation and natural resource protection as complementary rather than competing interests. VHCB programs have changed the dialogue about land use by providing resources to implement town and regional plans, reinvigorate town and village centers, support reinvestment in agricultural communities and expand public access to recreational land.”
Vermont is known for its relatively unspoiled environment, abundant recreational opportunities, historic town centers and agricultural heritage. Investments guided by the policies of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board have helped to reinforce these traits, capitalizing on the state’s assets and using public funds to create inclusive communities, providing housing opportunities for low and moderate income Vermonters, those with special needs and first time home owners.
VHCB programs help maintain the integrity of the Vermont landscape and have provided the model for two federal farmland conservation programs. Tiny towns like Richford and Groton, and larger population centers like Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro have benefited from VHCB grants and loans to revitalize their communities. These forward thinking investments will be appreciated by future generations of Vermonters.
For more information on the award and winners, go to www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/awards/sg_awards_publication_2007.htm
Source: Vermont Housing and Conservation Board