September 17th, 2019


Hollister Hill Apartments in Marshfield

So the plan is to demolish the 16-unit apartment complex on Hollister Hill in Marshfield. Why? I’m told by the Vermont Housing Authority and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board that shoddy construction and deteriorating pipes are the main reason. Has either of these state entities even left their offices for a site inspection? Twelve of the units are occupied right now and the other four are empty in the anticipation of destruction. The $5,000,000 cost hasn’t even been finalized yet. If there is a need for low-income and elderly housing, why are we tearing down units that are occupied? We should keep these and build 16 more.

The town of Marshfield has applied for a Community Development Block Grant for over $300,000 to help jump start the $5,000,000 influx of tax-payer dollars. The non-profit housing group wants it as a deferred loan (in other words, it can be forgiven or continually refinanced so they never have to pay it back). The selectboard should demand repayment of the loan. Marshfield could surely use these dollars for other infrastructure projects in town. As it is, the other $5,000,000 of taxpayer money is structured for 30-year deferred payments. They’ll never make a payment even at the end of 30 years. Think of it. No mortgage. They also get a huge property tax deduction. Further, when capitol improvements need to be done, they’ll apply and get another Block Grant or VHCB Grant. So what are they doing with the rent money? They’ll continually say that private landlords don’t keep their apartments up and charge too much for rent. The private landlord has a mortgage, full property taxes, and has to pay for keeping his apartments rentable out of the rent money. These so-called non-profit housing groups further say they charge considerably less in rent.

At a public hearing in Hardwick on Nov. 17 (televised on Comcast in Hardwick, the Lamoille Housing Partnership, when asked what they do with the rent money, explained that the low income and the elderly only pay up to 30 percent of their income for rent and left it at that. I asked the selectboard to ask them if they’d ever heard of the subsidies (Section 8) that supplements the 30 percent. These non-profits get the full rent.

These Hollister Hill Apartments are less than 50 years old. (Do you tear your house down after 50 years?) They were built with Housing and Urban Development money and supervised by HUD. Is it possible that the non-profit neglected needed maintenance? What did they do with the rent money?

I have nothing against the low-income and the elderly (of which I fit both categories). I do have a problem with these non-profits using them and taxpayers instead of helping them.

Marshfielders can remember years ago when they were told that their elementary school was unsafe and they needed to build a new one. So they did. So what happened to the old school? It’s still there, called the Old Schoolhouse Common and houses the Town Clerk’s office, the town library, and incubator businesses.

Don’t let these down-country smooth-talkers pull the wool over your eyes. Require them to pay the loan back.

Charley Burbank Jr.
Calais, VT

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