Thursday August 22, 2013
On June 11, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) celebrated 25 years of investing in Vermont. Hundreds of Vermonters, including representatives of over two dozen organizations, gathered at Shelburne Farms’ Coach Barn to celebrate the 10,500 affordable homes created and 390,740 acres of land conserved by VHCB since 1987.
Many of their stories are familiar to me. My legislative committee – General, Housing and Military Affairs – hosts the annual Housing and Conservation Day at the Statehouse. Yet the 25th anniversary was an extra special occasion.VHCB remains the forerunner in the nation in pioneering a comprehensive approach to affordable housing and community development linked with land conservation and historic preservation. Local nonprofit organizations identify and develop important projects in communities in every part of the state. VHCB supports reinvestment in older housing in small town and village centers, revitalizes downtown neighborhoods where residents can walk to services, and rebuilds a sense of community while spurring other private investment. The conservation of Vermont’s open and wild lands preserves the landscape that is such an integral part of our identity, supports the agricultural economy, protects wildlife habitat, and provides public access to the state’s waterways and woodlands.
VHCB’s accomplishments in South Burlington are clearly worth celebrating. The agency’s investments have led to the creation of 342 affordable homes in the city. These range from apartments for elders (Grand Way Commons) to owner-occupied condominiums (City’s Edge). Three developments of affordable apartments for families – Lime Kiln, Queensbury, and O’Dell – are all projects dependent on VHCB funding. South Burlington is home to an innovative form of housing that features people with disabilities sharing caregivers on Anderson Parkway. Thirty shared-equity owned homes that VHCB has made possible are scattered throughout South Burlington. At the Leduc Farm, 143 South Burlington acres were conserved with funds from VHCB.
As I write this article, our house is filled with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crew leaders who can’t seem to part from each other. Our daughter served as a crew leader this summer, building and maintaining trails. While the Corps members went home yesterday and all the tools were cleaned and stashed in the Richmond Monitor Barn, these young leaders, soon headed back to college, formed strong bonds, cemented by dedication to task and hard work. As I step over sleeping bags scattered throughout the house, I realize that I don’t want them to part, either. And I’m drawn to a favorite Marge Piercy poem that appeared in VCHB’s 25th anniversary celebration program:
To Be of UseMarge Piercy
The people I love the bestjump into work head firstwithout dallying in the shallowsand swim off with sure stroke almost out of sight.They seem to become natives of that element,the black sleek heads of sealsbouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submergein the task, who go in the fields to harvestand work in a row and pass the bags along,who are not parlor generals and field desertersbut move in a common rhythmwhen the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.But the thing worth doing well donehas a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.Greek amphoras for wine or oil,Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museumsbut you know they were made to be used.The pitcher cries for water to carryAnd a person for work that is real.
Enjoy these waning days of summer and please stay in touch. I look forward to hearing from you.
SOURCE: Helen Head, VT House of Representatives, District 7-3