LYNDONVILLE — Governor Scott recently announced that RuralEdge, the premier developer of affordable housing in the Northeast Kingdom, was one of five organizations that received a $309,490 Community Development CARES Act Housing Stabilization Program award.
While the grant will fund a new Housing Stabilization Counselor who will be tasked with assisting homeowners in need of assistance due to a negative financial impact from COVID-19, the bulk of the money will assist current homeowners with mortgage and utility back payment once a plan has been developed that will ensure their housing situation is sustainable.
“With the dire need for new units, both rental and homeownership, across the Northeast Kingdom, one of the most important things that we can do now is to help those who have decent and stable housing keep it,” Patrick Shattuck, RuralEdge Executive Director said. “These funds, that allow us more staffing along with direct, flexible financial assistance are imperative to succeeding in that effort.”
The impact of this program goes beyond homeowners to the communities where they live and work.
Scott and Heather LeFoll, who reside on a small family farm in Maidstone were well on their way to expanding their business, Sweet Eats Farm & CSA, when COVID-19 hit.
As with many small agricultural endeavors, their place of business is also their home, so when COVID-19 began to affect their business, it meant affecting their home as well.
“We threw everything we had into this operation to assist the community,” said Scott. “We try to send people away with food from our surplus to help others who might be struggling.”
Heather also remarked that the purpose of the farm was not only to build business, but “to have the ability to help people who do not have enough food.”
Unfortunately, with lower revenue due to COVID, coupled with higher expenses from a growing business, including the electricity bill for grow lights in their home, the future of their business, and their home, was in jeopardy.
Sweet Eats Farm provides a stable home for the hardworking LeFoll family while also serving the larger Essex County community as an important source of quality food.
Among the consumers in their Community Supported Agriculture model is the NEKCA food shelf in Canaan, as well as numerous individuals in an area that does not have as many options for organic food.
It is important, not just to the LeFolls, but to the community and the state, that small working farms, and the homeowners that operate them, stay in their communities for years to come.
The Housing Stabilization Program is vital to the success of households.
Through working with RuralEdge and with the assistance of this program, the vitality of the LeFoll’s home and farm are secured, enhancing the sustainability of community members and the growth of small agriculture in rural Essex County.
“I just want people to know that this grant, not only helps us keep our home, but allows for the direct growing of food that will assist our community,” Scott said.
This program, which is being administered by the five Neighborworks Homeownership Centers in Vermont, provides RuralEdge with another resource to advance its mission.
“RuralEdge works to strengthen Northeast Kingdom communities, one home at a time,” Shattuck said. “Helping the LeFoll’s maintain their home in Maidstone is a great example of how the beneficiary is not just one household, but the entire community.”