This event celebrated the end of phase one of the project, which involved purchasing the land, permitting, and developing a concept sketch for the houses. The United Church of Underhill closed on the property in July of 2023, three years after they were approached by an adjoining property owner to purchase the land.
During phase one, the United Church of Underhill’s work has included a property evaluation, an environmental assessment, an archeological assessment, a wetlands delineation, and a preliminary engineering site sketch. The team worked with McCain Consulting to develop a concept sketch.
This project has been funded through various private donations and grants so far, and they are applying for more grants and continuing to fund the project during the following stages.
The United Church of Underhill plans to create infrastructure on the property, including utilities and roads, and then they will sell the property to Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity at face value. Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity will then construct eight units consisting of six single family homes and one duplex.
Dan Manz, a member of the Harvest Crossing planning team, emceed the event and expressed his gratitude as around 30 members of the community joined in the celebration of this new housing development. Attendees included members of the church, neighbors, and other community members.
Various representatives from government, nonprofit, and local organizations joined the community at the event. Speakers for the event included David Mullin of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, Sean Thomas of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alex Farrell of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, Vermont State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Elizabeth Egan of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Reverend Jen Mihok of the United Church of Underhill, and Dan Steinbauer of the Underhill Selectboard.
Erhard Mahnke, a representative from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders, was a key speaker and expressed Sanders’ gratitude at the event. “As we work to address Vermont’s housing crisis and rebuild from this summer’s devastating floods, I am proud to have secured $200,000 in much-needed federal funding for Harvest Crossing to build the first ever affordable housing in Underhill,” wrote Sanders.
Sanders has helped support this project by providing $200,000 in Congressionally Directed Spending for the development of this land.
Mahnke talked about the state of Vermont’s housing crisis and the urgent need for affordable housing. In Chittenden County, many residents are cost-burdened by rent or housing costs, and there are many residents that are paying over a third of their income towards housing costs.
“For someone to afford a home, a median priced home, in Chittenden County, a family would need an income of $147,000 a year, plus $35,000 for the down-payment and closing costs. With a median income here in Underhill of just under $90,000, it’s clear that there’s a lot of residents here who would not be able to afford a median home without additional financing or support from the federal government or state government,” said Mahnke.
David Mullin, CEO of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, has been an integral part of the development, as he is one of ten people on the Harvest Crossing Planning team. Other members of the planning team include members of the Church and other staff from Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity.
“When Dan reached out to me about this project and about the opportunity to help eight more families into homeownership, I said yes without hesitation,” Mullin said to the audience.
Mullin discussed the impact that eight homes will have for eight families in the area, as well as for the Underhill community. This project has the potential to affect the lives of families for generations to come, Mullin said.
Farrell, Egan, and Thomas spoke about the contributions of their organizations and the gratitude that they have for the Harvest Crossing planning team.
“I’m thrilled that I’m going to be able to go back to my organization and say, ‘It’s not just housing, it’s a community,’” said Egan during her speech, General Counsel for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Vermont Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale spoke to the audience as well. Ram Hinsdale is a proponent of building affordable housing in the state, and she discussed the importance of environmental justice for the families that would be moving to this property in Underhill.
“This is environmental justice. This is what it looks like. Everyone deserves to live in a beautiful place where they can come home and find sanctuary,” she said.
Dan Steinbauer, Chair of the Underhill Selectboard, also spoke about how the town has contributed its resources and supported the members of the Harvest Crossing planning committee.
Dave Clift, Co-chair of the Harvest Crossing planning team, addressed the audience. He discussed the upcoming plans for this project, which includes installing the infrastructure for the homes. This includes services such as water, electricity, and roads. This event was the conclusion of phase one, he said, and they are excited to move into phase two.
“Achieving the vision of Harvest Crossing requires the partnership of our Church, Green Mountain Habitat, the Town of Underhill, and a host of government agencies,” said Clift. “It is a pleasure to be working on a project where everyone can see the need and is willing to do their part.”
Clift said that they expect to break ground in 2024.
After the speeches, speakers lined up behind soccer balls and officially ‘kicked off’ the Harvest Crossing development. Guests cheered and applauded as the soccer balls flew through the air on the sunny Friday afternoon.
Refreshments were served, and guests mingled and learned more about the project from displays and concept sketches.
To learn more about Harvest Crossing and our partnership with the United Church of Underhill, visit the Harvest Crossing website.