Caledonian Record: Feds Drop $2 Million Delivery on Northeast Kingdom
By Taylor Reed
LYNDONVILLE – The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development broke news Friday at Darling Inn during a traveling REAP Zone conference – nearly $2 million worth of news.
The federal agency, based on the Northeast Kingdom’s status as a REAP Zone, issued Lyndon-based RuralEdge a $1.3-million low-interest loan to renovate the Parkview duplexes in Newport, and a $650,000 low-interest loan to renovate the Derby Housing facility in Derby Line. Ranking federal bureaucrats, aides to U.S. congressmen plus more than a dozen others attended the ceremony, including a cowboy hat wearing government official from a REAP Zone in North Dakota.
REAP Zones, or Rural Economic Area Partnership Zones, mark several economically deprived areas across the country. The designation delivers certain grants and low-interest loans.
Trisha Ingalls, CEO of RuralEdge, said USDA is crucial to furnishing affordable housing in the Kingdom, as is REAP Zone funding.
“We see housing as a foundation for everything else in life,” Ingalls said. “It takes partners like Rural Development to make that happen…The need only gets bigger. The need never goes away.”
Ingalls detailed planned renovations in Newport and in Derby Line. Construction is scheduled next year.
The Newport property, Parkview, is a collection of six duplexes with 12 housing units and an outdoor playground that is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The $1.3 million loan will fund appliance upgrades, parking expansion, and energy improvements.
The property presently heats with electricity, Ingalls said. Some tenants cannot afford it though, she said.
The Derby Line facility is a nine unit building of affordable family housing. Construction will feature accessibility upgrades, energy improvements, exterior enhancements, and bathroom and kitchen renovations.
“It’s a pretty tired building,” Ingalls said.
The property was also granted a subsidy from USDA’s Rental Assistance Program. It will “ensure the families living there contribute no more than 30 percent of their income towards rent,” according to USDA.
Bryan Hooper, USDA’s deputy administrator for multi-family housing programs, thanked RuralEdge for its collaboration with the agency.
“Working with us can be challenging sometimes because we want to make sure these projects are successful,” Hooper said.
Ted Brady, USDA’s state director for Vermont and New Hampshire, said the impact of RuralEdge is evident throughout the Northeast Kingdom.
“If not for RuralEdge, our downtowns would look a lot worse,” he said.
Jenny Nelson, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, said residents should be thankful for the REAP Zone. It provides money to make old buildings new, which is an expensive but worthy proposition, she said.
“There’s no better way to keep a village and a community together than to use those buildings that are right there,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t come cheap though.”
Nelson called housing a “justice thing.”
Kevin Veller, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, said, “Hats off to RuralEdge.”
Chris Saunders, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, reminded people to consider the humanity behind housing figures and dollar bills.
“We talk about units and funding, but each of those units is a home,” he said.