History of the Brattleboro Housing Authority d.b.a. Brattleboro Housing Partnerships
The Brattleboro Housing Authority was created in 1962 by the Town of Brattleboro to address the housing needs of the community’s lowest income elderly persons. The first Chair of the Board was Carroll Garfield and the first Executive Director was Ralph Davis. The Brattleboro Housing Authority was the second Federal Public Housing Authority to be established in Vermont.
Chair Garfield and Executive Director Davis oversaw the construction of the first three public housing developments in Brattleboro. Melrose Terrace, in West Brattleboro, consisted of 19 separate buildings and 80 total units opened in 1966. The beautiful property, set along the Whetstone Brook, was immediately full and enjoyed a long and successful tenure as housing for the lower income elderly and non-elderly disabled. Hayes Court with 72 units of housing was opened in 1970 and shortly thereafter, the first low-income development for 28 families, Moore Court, was opened in 1972.
In the mid-70’s Edward Dunklee became the Executive Director along with Chairman Cowling. During this period, the focus of their work was on operations and the ever changing regulations governing the public housing program by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD. They also brought the Section 8 Housing Certificate program into Brattleboro. The Certificate enabled a household to rent from a private landlord in the community and only pay 30% of their adjusted gross income towards rent. The balance was paid by Federal funds funneled through BHA to the landlords. This was a very popular program and quickly developed a waitlist.
In 1980, Fredrick Noble became the Executive Director and Larry Cooke became the Board Chair. Under their leadership the BHA was able to construct 42 units of additional family housing at Ledgewood Heights and in 1982, the last elderly and non-elderly development, the Samuel Elliot Apartments, a high-rise apartment building with 62 units. The BHA focused on the maintenance of all these properties and again, the ever changing and increasing regulations being handed down by HUD and the Federal Legislators.
In 1995, Mr. Noble and Mr. Cooke stepped down and a new BHA Board and Executive Director were put in place. The first Chair was Thomas Yahn and the Executive Director was Christine Hart. The first order of business for them was to work to ensure that the internal operations and policies of the BHA were up to date. Along with this were the capital improvement needs of all five Developments and meeting new fair housing and disability regulations. The BHA was also growing in staff with increasing demands for more social services and maintenance needs. The Section 8 Certificate program was converted to an almost entirely new Housing Choice Voucher Program. Though its basic subsidy of rent remains in place, almost everything else about the program was changed.
Beginning in 2007, the BHA started to address the need for housing for the elderly with more assistance for daily living activities. This work culminated in a plan and funding for an Elderly Living Facility (ELF) which would not be a licensed assisted living facility but provide a great many of the same services. In its work towards creating an ELF, BHA was approached by the owner of a building next to Hayes Court who wanted to sell his property. BHA spent the next two years developing, funding and then opening its first development since 1982, the Ann Wilder Richards building. This is not within the public housing program but funded through a variety of state and banking programs.
BHA also created a comprehensive energy improvement plan for its developments which would have brought much needed deep energy upgrades to the properties. Both the ELF and energy contract were put aside in 2011 when Tropical Storm Irene did massive damage to Melrose Terrace. 60 of its 80 units were damaged, residents were without housing and the next two years were devoted to fixing the property and re-housing its residents. The 1.2 million dollars in recovery costs were not entirely recovered by BHA which then endured two years of very precarious funding.
It was clear that Melrose had outlived its use as residential housing. Beginning in 2013, BHA with its development partner Housing Vermont undertook the task of finding and developing replacement housing for Melrose residents. In 2016, Red Clover Commons opened with 55 units of contemporary and flood safe housing for relocation of Melrose residents. The twenty-five residents remaining at Melrose were moved to the safest buildings and work began on finding the site and building Phase II.
At this time, BHA went through a very through strategic planning process which culminated in a comprehensive 5 year plan and a name change – to Brattleboro Housing Partnerships. The agency was a founding member of a state-wide highly success program for service coordination among elderly and non-elderly residents, SASH. The agency received two important grants, one focused on self-sufficiency services to assist individuals to achieve their goals towards greater independence; and the Resident Opportunities and Supportive Services (ROSS) program to assist families with service coordination and self-sufficiency. These programs and good success with its financial management enable the agency to create the Resident Wellness and Supportive Services group which focuses on collaboration with area human service agencies to bring appropriate and timely assistance to residents. The RWSS group is able to bring early and positive assistance to residents with rent issues and lease violations that would otherwise be handled under the legal enforcement process.
In 2018 the Brattleboro Housing Partnerships is focused on solidifying its organizational structure; addressing the needs for Red Clover Commons Phase II and; perhaps the first demolition of buildings at Melrose. Given the incredible staff and their working relationships, BHP is working on an application to transform the agency into a Moving-To-Work agency. This would enable BHP to more fully focus on the housing needs of the low income in Brattleboro and create a program which truly meets this need. Work continues on the capital needs of all BHP’s developments.