Manchester gets new affordable-housing condos

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MANCHESTER — There are three brand-new condominium units in town that qualified buyers can snag for less than $170,000. Each has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a gas fireplace, basement and appliances.

The two-story units, among the latest additions to the East Branch Farms condominium complex, are affordable housing developed by the Bennington non-profit Shires Housing.

They were unveiled at an open house on Saturday after starting construction last spring. They're valued at $240,000, but qualified households can receive $60,000 in down payment assistance through Shires Housing. Another $10,500 in grants will be available till April 10 from another area non-profit, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.

This would bring the unit cost down to $169,500. One other new condo at the complex, which has some add-on features, is being sold at market rate for $265,000.

East Branch Farms is Shires Housing's first affordable homeownership project in Manchester. The organization, which aims to provide housing to Bennington County residents with low to moderate income, formerly only managed rentals properties in Manchester: the apartments at Manchester Commons and Torrey Knoll.

Among the reasons Shires Housing became involved in the project was to increase housing options in Manchester for people who have a limited income.

"We think it's important because there is a lack of housing that is within reach to families between 80 and 120 percent of median income in Manchester," Stephanie Lane, executive director of Shires Housing, said.

"Many work in Manchester but cannot afford to live there, and we thought this was a unique opportunity for families to be able to purchase a home in Manchester that meets their needs and it's sustainable to them as well."

Manchester faces a workforce-housing shortage in the face of high land development costs. Town officials previously said an estimated 3,000 Manchester workers live outside the Northshire.

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People qualify to buy the East Branch Farms affordable-housing units if they earn 80 to 120 percent of the area's median income. This means, for instance, that a household of two should earn no more than $69,100; a family of four, $86,200.

Buyers must also attend homebuyer education, in person or online, and must be eligible for a mortgage.

East Branch Farms' new affordable housing, Lane said, materialized with the assistance of funders such as the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

"For many years the town of Manchester has been committed to permanent affordable housing through its town plan," Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, said in a release. "These new homes will expand affordable home ownership options in the community and enhance the existing East Branch neighborhood."

Last year, Seelig said, Gov. Phil Scott and the state legislature authorized a $37 million housing revenue bond, which enabled the Board to investment at East Branch Farms.

Shires Housing plans to begin constructing four more units at East Branch Farms, including two affordable housing, as soon as at least three of the available units are sold. This would bring to 20 the total number of condominiums at the complex, 60 percent of which would be affordable housing. This is in compliance with the terms of East Branch Farms' planned residential development approval, which was issued by the Manchester municipal government back in 2007, said Janet Hurley, the town planning and zoning director.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com,

@tiffgtan at Twitter and

802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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