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Lamoille Housing Partnership Sets Vote on Plan to Transfer Hardwick Properties

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Residents of the Bemis Block, and other Hardwick properties now owned by the Lamoille Housing Partnership (LHP), will have a chance to vote on a possible transfer of ownership to RuralEdge, based in St. Johnsbury, on June 17. The remainder of LHP will merge with Downstreet, based in Barre, if members approve and other details are worked out.

HARDWICK – Lamoille Housing Partnership (LHP) is asking members to approve the transfer of its Hardwick properties and a merger of the remainder of the organization.

LHP’s Hardwick properties include the Bemis Block and Jeudevine Housing Apartments on Main Street, Cherry Street and Maple Street Apartments and the Evergreen Manor Mobile Home Park off Mackville Road.

A mid-May notice to renters advised them that LHP “is considering an exciting opportunity to merge with the affordable housing nonprofit Downstreet Housing & Community Development, and transfer its Hardwick housing assets to affordable housing nonprofit, RuralEdge.

The notice invited renters to attend a public informational meeting on Monday, June 17, at 3 p.m. at The Wing Center in Morrisville.

Immediately following that information meeting, there will be a vote by members, which includes renters. That vote will be on the question: “Shall the members of Lamoille Housing Partnership Inc. approve the Disposition of the Corporation’s Hardwick assets and development territory to Gilman Housing Trust Inc., DBA RuralEdge, and Merger of the Corporation with Downstreet Housing and Community Development?”

”All LHP members have a vote on whether LHP should pursue this vision for the future. The meeting is open to the public and all members, in person, are free to attend,” the notice indicated.

Lucy Leriche, interim executive director of LHP said she and staff there are working with VTrans and RCT to arrange transportation for renters in Hardwick to attend the meeting.

Leriche said that this proposed transfer of Hardwick properties and merger is made possible because “Lamoille County is contiguous to nonprofits who are stronger. Both Downstreet and RuralEdge offer home ownership and provide resident services that LHP does not.

She added. LHP, based in Morrisville, requires the approval of members to move forward with the process, about which the notice said, “Affordable housing development is changing. A merger will help to better serve the people of Lamoille County and Hardwick by bringing more capacity and resources to our region, enhance affordable housing services locally, and positively move our mission forward in our communities.

The vote will be an initial step in exploring details of the asset transfer from LHP to RuralEdge, according to Rural Edge Executive Director, Patrick Shattuck.

LHP began in 1984 to develop affordable housing in Lamoille County. In the 1990’s Gilman Housing Trust, operating as RuralEdge, transferred its Hardwick properties to LHP because they felt it was difficult to manage the properties from their offices in St. Johnsbury, said LeRiche.

In the years since, RuralEdge has become more capable. she said. In addition, she says that Federal ARPA funds available during the pandemic have shrunk to pre-pandemic levels so it has become harder and slower to develop low income housing. Leriche expects that the transfer of the Hardwick properties to RuralEdge will offer less risk and better stewardship, with long-term stability for the properties. It will also provide more security and resident services for renters, she says.

LHP has a staff of three while RuralEdge has a staff of 50. It manages over 700 rental units in 16 of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom towns.

The LHP notice to renters offers assurances that important things will not change: “There will not be rent increases associated with the merger.”

“Alliance Property Management will continue to manage LHP properties,” and “LHP’s properties will continue to be operated as affordable housing and owned by affordable housing nonprofit organizations. Your housing will be secure and not at risk,” the notice stated.

It went on, “Additionally, Downstreet will continue to have staff and an office in Morrisville. Rural Edge and Downstreet will continue to maintain offices in St. Johnsbury and Barre, respectively.

“The tenant screening process will continue to be done in accordance with LHP’s mission and will continue to comply with all State and Federal laws and regulations,” the notice advised.

The merger with Downstreet, a stronger and more capable organization, said LeRicche, will allow the work of LHP to continue in Lamoille County, where they now have properties in Jeffersonville, Johhnson, Morrisville and Stowe.

Similar to LHP, Downstreet and RuralEdge are nonprofit affordable housing organizations. Downstreet’s service area includes Washington and Orange counties, Rural Edge’s service area includes Essex, Caledonia and Orleans counties.

Renters wanting more information about transportation to the June 17 meeting may or email Lucy LeRiche at [email protected], or (802) 793-0130.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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