One of the world's richest women gave Vermont nonprofit a gift. What it means for housing

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Champlain Housing Trust received a $20 million donation, the largest in the 40-year history of the nonprofit that builds housing for low-income and homeless Vermonters.

The donation came from MacKenzie Scott through her philanthropic fund, Yield Giving, according to a news release. Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

In December 2020, Scott donated $9 million to the Vermont Foodbank, the largest donation that the organization has ever received.

Michael Monte, chief executive officer of Champlain Housing Trust, said in a statement Scott's gift represents a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move the dial on affordable housing in Vermont."

The Ho-Hum Motel on Williston Road will be converted by the Champlain Housing Trust to long-term apartments for people experiencing homelessness. As seen on Feb. 15, 2023.
The Ho-Hum Motel on Williston Road will be converted by the Champlain Housing Trust to long-term apartments for people experiencing homelessness. As seen on Feb. 15, 2023.

How many apartments and shelters does the Champlain Housing Trust have

"We are extremely grateful to Ms. Scott for the confidence she and her team have placed in our efforts to address the region's housing crisis, the work we do in supporting people in need, and the track record of serving our communities over the last 40 years," Monte said.

Champlain Housing Trust owns or manages more than 2,500 affordable apartments and more than 100 shelter beds or motel rooms.

The organization also manages 675 shared equity homes to keep them affordable in perpetuity and provides programs ranging from affordable lending to financial literacy, community building, and resident services. In addition, CHT has more than 500 homes at various stages of construction.

How $20 million will impact Champlain Housing Trust's work

There are several initiatives that will be funded with Scott's gift:

  • Building and preserving permanently affordable housing: Vermont has a well-documented shortage of affordable housing. CHT borrows money to move development projects along, but having the internal capacity to replace this borrowing will make development less expensive, more sustainable, and more nimble.

  • Supporting and increasing access to homeownership: Homeownership is the way many people build wealth and achieve financial stability, but BIPOC households have been prevented from achieving those goals because of racist policies that prevented them from becoming homeowners. Scott's gift will allow CHT to expand its Homeownership Equity Program, working with partner agencies.

More: Long-term apartments for homeless coming to Ho-Hum Motel in South Burlington

  • Addressing homelessness: Twenty-three percent of CHT's rental housing is occupied by people exiting homelessness; CHT has helped more than 200 households exit homelessness in the past 12 months. This gift will create an ongoing, stable stream of funding to help support this work, and increase the number of families helped in the coming years.

  • Building community: The Old North End Community Center in Burlington, created by CHT five years ago, has launched an effort to redevelop the O'Brien Community Center in Winooski. This gift will help sustain the nonprofit and public use of these buildings, stabilize the rents for the tenants, and make needed improvements to supply community resources.

  • Supporting residents: Scott's gift will improve CHT's ability to connect people to resources, to each other and to opportunities to engage in their neighborhood and communities, an important priority for the Champlain Housing Trust.

Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: MacKenzie Scott donates $20 million to Champlain Housing Trust in VT