In the bright common room of a new apartment building on Market Street Thursday, affordable housing advocates, city councilors and residents alike gathered for a ribbon cutting at Allard Square, a senior affordable housing community, and the first residential building to be constructed in the City Center.
The newest facility from Cathedral Square, an organization that manages 30 similar communities across the state, Allard Square offers top-of-the line amenities to its residents, from free in-home support services to a gym and outdoor patio. While those able to secure an apartment are ensured high quality rentals at a low cost, there are thousands of other Vermonters eligible for but waiting to receive such services due to a lack of available units.
“I could build tomorrow what it’s taken us 40 years to build, and not have enough,” said Kim Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of Cathedral Square.
There are 39 apartments at Allard Square, 25 of which are subsidized so that renters pay approximately 30 percent of their annual income, while 10 are rented at a market rate, $1,250 with all utilities included. Four units are tax credit housing.
Allard Square, which was built by Snyder Braverman Development Company and received over $10 million in funding from various banks, charities and development programs, began welcoming residents October 2018.
The building’s namesake comes from Doris Allard, who moved into the original Cathedral Square property in Burlington in 1979, and is now most tenured resident of the entire Cathedral Square organization.
Sarah Carpenter, who will retire this year from her post as executive director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, was also honored with an activity room named for her.
To illustrate the need for services like those offered at Allard Square, at a press conference before the ribbon cutting, Fitzgerald displayed a sculpture of sorts, made up of three different-sized plastic tubes stuffed with paper keys. The largest tube was filled to the brim with keys, representing the 1,079 people on a waitlist for a Cathedral Square property, while a smaller tube, also completely full of keys, signified the 341 people who applied to live in Allard Square. In the smallest tube, a smattering of keys barely covering the bottom, each representing the number of available units at Allard Square.
Multiple South Burlington civic advisory committees played an important role in outlining why properties like Allard Square are necessary for South Burlington, said City Council Chairwoman Helen Riehle. She said the Affordable Housing Committee, for one, found $50,000 in the town’s budget to be put into an affordable housing trust fund, which is used to finance projects similar to Allard Square.
“The Affordable Housing Committee was central to getting South Burlington to coalesce around how we can meet the needs for affordable housing,” Riehle said.
The idea to concentrate affordable units in the city center originated from a committee that worked on the city center’s form based codes, Riehle said. As a result of this committee’s findings, inclusionary zoning, an ordinance that mandates that a certain number of units in a new development be set aside at an affordable price, is compulsory in the city center, Riehle said.
Allard Square residents, the first to benefit from this development code, are by and large excited about their new home.
For Mary Dion, living in the heart of South Burlington is something of an adjustment. Dion moved to Allard Square from Whitney Hill in Williston, where she was used to the more rural aesthetic of that community.
Though she found it a bit tough to leave the friends that made Whitney Hill feel like home, Dion said she’s ready for the “fresh start” Allard Square affords.
“I’m sure I’m going to like it here,” she said.
After waiting approximately a year for his application to be approved, William Moore is ecstatic about his new digs. His favorite aspect of Allard Square is its city center location, with close access to transportation, supermarkets, restaurants, and the like.
With the construction of a new library, senior center and city hall down the street, in the coming years Moore and other Allard Square residents will have even more amenities close by.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.