NEWPORT CITY – There’s no place like home, and for 21 Newport area families, home will be the Lakebridge housing complex at the former Sleeper Place site on West Main Street.
Rural Edge, formerly known as Gilman Housing Trust, owns the new housing complex. Like all of Rural Edge’s properties, tenants’ rents are one third of their income. The apartments have one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
The Lakebridge complex has been in the works for some time, Merten Bangeman-Johnson, Chief Executive Officer for Rural Edge, said during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday morning.
“Wow,” is the way Kathy Beyer, vice-president for development at Housing Vermont put it. She recalled the former complex had some tired looking buildings. Housing Vermont and Rural Edge representatives spent many long hours with an architect to design the site. “We’re very proud of our partnership and our accomplishment.”
Gus Seelig, executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, called the change in the Lakebridge neighborhood incredible. He spoke highly of Gilman Housing Trust’s impact in the Northeast Kingdom. Seelig added that Bangeman-Johnson helped the non-profit organization break even.
“This is a very, very startling change for the better,” said Sarah Carpenter, executive director for the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. “This is just amazing; what a difference this will make, and there is plenty more to be done in the future.”
USDA Rural Development helped make the affordable housing complex a reality. State Director Molly Lambert said staff members worked hard to ensure the organization had the privilege of investing in the $6.6 million project. She is pleased with the rehabilitation project. Newport has a rejuvenating downtown that’s happening one block away from the Lakebridge property, said Lambert.
“To be part of a project that is going to do all that is a pretty remarkable opportunity for all of us that are partners here,” said Lambert. “Our mission at USDA is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all of us who live in rural communities. There is nothing more important than what we are doing today to accomplish that mission.”
Josh Hanford, director of the Vermont Community Development Program, is also happy about the way the downtown housing project turned out. He also thanked everyone who worked hard to make the project a reality.
Susan Elliott, from Rep. Peter Welch’s office, said that without a decent and affordable home, nothing else matters.
“This just looks tremendous,” said Jenny Nelson, from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office. “What an asset to the whole community.”
Ted Brady, from Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office, congratulated Gilman Housing Trust and the City of Newport on the new housing development and putting the funding to good use.
“This is an incredible project,” said Brady. “If you don’t have affordable housing, you’re not going to have a good economy, because people need a place to live near work.”
Watching the transition has been wonderful, said Mayor Paul Monette. He said the city and Gilman Housing Trust worked well together. The project is the first one under the city’s Form Based Code, Monette said.
“Housing is vital for any economic development in a community,” said Monette.