‘A fresh start’: Residents move into affordable housing complex in White River Junction

  • Twin Pines Housing property manager Jeff Peck, right, explains the Wentworth Community Housing building's heating and cooling system to new resident Kevin Leveret, before he signed his lease Tuesday, July 9, 2019. About half the occupants of the building's 30 affordable housing units were scheduled to move in Tuesday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Daniel White, right, his girlfriend Kaleena Smith, second from right, and Dylan White, 11, left, get help from Anita Palys, 14, of West Lebanon, moving into their new apartment at the Wentworth Community Housing building in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The family is moving from another Twin Pines Housing building into the newly built Wentworth building. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dylan White, 11, rests in a pile of pillows and couch cushions after helping his family empty their moving truck into a new, two-bedroom apartment at the Wentworth Community Housing building in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2019 10:19:53 PM
Modified: 7/9/2019 10:49:19 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Watching several of his neighbors-to-be haul furniture from moving vans into the new Wentworth Community Housing complex on Tuesday, the eldest of Karley Dickerson’s three kids really wanted a piece of the action.

“We’re going to do most of it over the weekend, but my 12-year-old practically begged to bring something today,” Dickerson, a single mother and a 2004 graduate of Lebanon High School, said after signing the lease on one of the complex’s 15 two-bedroom units. “So we brought his bookshelf, some of his toys and stuff. Since we heard that we’d been selected, my kids have been talking about it every day.”

Welcome to the club — and to the first phase of the $9.8 million neighborhood off Sykes Mountain Avenue that nonprofit Twin Pines Housing is building in concert with Housing Vermont.

Fifteen families signed leases and started moving in Tuesday, according to Twin Pines development and communications director Michelle Kersey.

“And we’re working through the waitlist and processing applications, and receiving new applications every day,” Kersey said.

Once the 30 units are occupied, work will begin on an adjacent complex of 17 apartments.

Jill Aube, a 58-year-old former nurse living on Social Security disability who since October had been living with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, couldn’t believe her luck when she got the call.

“I’ve been on every waiting list in the Upper Valley — Rogers House, Lebanon Towers, Quail Hollow, you name it,” Aube said in her apartment after signing the lease. “A lot of the draw for me is the elevator — the place where I’d been living in Maine had 16 stairs, and I just couldn’t live on my own anymore with that — and the parking garage.

“But it’s also great because it’s a community, with a lot of different people. I’m hoping to be able to say, if there’s a family where the parent or parents both have to work, I can say, ‘I’ll watch your kids,’ so they can.”

To draw tenants from a variety of circumstances, Twin Pines and Housing Vermont offered nine apartments to households earning between 80% and 120% of the area’s median family income, and five to people emerging from homelessness. Depending on income and family size, rents run from $713 a month to $1,175 a month, according to Twin Pines.

But one of the features that makes the apartments so affordable is the break on utilities — a state-of-the-art solar array on Wentworth’s roof offsets most of the electricity needed to heat and cool the building. And the system was humming on move-in day, keeping even upper-floor apartments comfortable through the hottest part of a July afternoon.

Aube said that while she’ll be paying $50 a month more in rent than she did on the southern coast of Maine, she’ll no longer have to pay for utilities — including $3,000 a year for heating oil.

Dickerson said she’ll be paying $100 a month less in rent than she’s been paying for a second-floor apartment on Cascadnac Avenue in White River Junction, where the heating system didn’t always work in winter and where she, her two sons and her 1-year-old daughter have sweltered during the recent hot spell.

The climate-control system comforts new resident Kevin Leveret, a retired auto mechanic, in more ways than one.

“I’m not paying much more for rent, and I’m definitely saving on utilities,” Leveret said before heading to his old apartment on Taft Flat in White River Junction to start loading a moving van. “These guys had the economic sense to put this together in a very smart way. They’re right on top of things. This is very progressive, not only the technology, but the affordability. It makes me happy to join this kind of community.”

The addition of the 30 units brings to 447 the number of units of housing that Twin Pines owns, Executive Director Andrew Winter said. Twin Pines also expects to complete its 29-unit Tracy Street complex in downtown West Lebanon, aimed at more traditional low- and moderate-income tenants, in September.

At Wentworth Community Housing, Karley Dickerson, who works at a fast-food restaurant in West Lebanon, is relieved to be leaving behind all-too-easy-to-hear neighbors, especially the teenager in the apartment overhead “who screams at his PlayStation all the time.”

“It’s a fresh start for me and my kids,” Dickerson said. “This is going to be much better for us.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.




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