Team Effort: Our HomeOwnership Center
Talking to our HomeOwnership Director Pattie Dupuis, you wouldn’t know that providing the time and resources necessary to implement the Vermont State Rental Rehab Program has required her staff of three to quickly pivot and restructure the way they get things done. Shifting responsibilities around, taking on new tasks, and rolling with the punches of handling extra work in an already busy department is no easy feat, but the three ladies who make up our HomeOwnership Center team handled it all with a grace and professionalism that made it appear as though the modifications were a piece of cake.
When the State of Vermont called on housing service providers to administer the VT State Rental Rehab Program, Downstreet enthusiastically answered the call. Our organizational belief that everyone deserves a home is wholeheartedly embraced by our staff, and the rental rehab program serves that belief by granting funds to help landlords repair vacant rental units to help house individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the age of COVID-19.
Pattie is the point person for any landlord in Washington, Orange, or Lamoille County who is taking advantage of the program. After initially taking in and processing applications, she now serves as a project manager for each rental rehab project that has been accepted into the program. This means coordinating inspections, verifying documentation, communicating with landlords, and ensuring that all the projects follow the guidelines of the rental rehab grant.
But this is a new, temporary program, and not the usual mode of operation for Pattie. So what of her usual Downstreet duties?
“I could not do this program without Kira and Cheryl,” Pattie insists. “We’ve had to realign some of our duties and they’ve taken a lot off my plate so I could focus on rental rehab.”
Kira and Cheryl are the two Downstreet staffers who round out the HomeOwnership Center. With Pattie taking on the rental rehab project, most of her normal workload was passed on to Kira, who took the extra responsibilities in stride. Despite a learning process and a new rhythm to her already hectic workdays, Kira embraced the work with positivity and a can-do attitude.
Cheryl, who manages our down-payment assistance program, has also taken on new responsibilities. Using her experience in foreclosure prevention coaching, she plays an important role in the development of Downstreet’s new Eviction Prevention Program and is completing the process of becoming a certified eviction prevention counselor. This initiative is another way Downstreet is working to help keep residents in their homes: by identifying tenants who are struggling to pay their rent before they fall too far behind. As a result, we are able to reduce evictions and costs for attorney fees and apartment turnovers.
With all of the challenges this new work has presented, they are not without their rewards. When all is said and done, the rental rehab program will result in close to 30 units of housing that was previously unavailable; as part of the grant agreement, the landlords of these units will work with the continuum of care to consider renting units to those experiencing homelessness. For Downstreet, 30 units of housing is equivalent to an entire building that would have cost around $8 million to develop. The investment for this program is closer to $1 million.
In addition, there are benefits to the HomeOwnership team as well.
“We’ve done a lot of cross-training, which is always a good thing,” Pattie says. “Our team works great together, and we love learning from each other.”
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