Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont’s top housing official, Josh Hanford, to step down

A man in a suit speaks at a table inside a formal committee room with yellow walls, a high ceiling, and framed artwork
Glenn Russell
Josh Hanford, commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development, testifies at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

This story, by Report for America corps member Carly Berlin, was produced through a partnership between VTDigger and Vermont Public.

Vermont’s top housing official, Josh Hanford, plans to step down from his post at the end of September.

Hanford has served as commissioner of the state Department of Housing and Community Development since 2019. He expects to start in a new position next month as director of intergovernmental relations with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, a first-of-its-kind position at the nonprofit, which supports and represents municipalities around the state.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, which oversees the housing department, announced Hanford’s planned departure in a press release Thursday morning.

“At the local, municipal level is where the rubber meets the road,” Hanford said in an interview. “I sort of describe my job as, it’s going to be to help them get the traction they need to be successful.”

Hanford said the new position overlaps with work he’s done for the state over the last 18 years, “just from the local end up.”

Government relations often equates to lobbying, and both state law and an executive order limit the ability of former gubernatorial appointees to lobby lawmakers or the department or agency they previously served. In an email, Hanford said he would not be performing any duties considered lobbying under the law. 

He was initially hired as a grants management specialist for the Department of Housing and Community Development in 2005. He later served as the director of the state’s Community Development Block Grant program, administering over $150 million in federal grants, and helped deploy federal disaster recovery funding after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. He was named deputy commissioner of the department in 2017.

More recently, Hanford helped usher in new initiatives such as the Vermont Housing Improvement Program and the Manufactured Home Improvement and Repair Program aimed at addressing Vermont’s acute housing crunch by providing funds to repair dilapidated housing and construct new units.

More from Vermont Public and VTDigger: Vermont’s top housing official concerned by FEMA’s count of homes destroyed by floods

Hanford said these programs are some of the achievements he’s most proud of from his tenure in state government, along with regulatory and zoning reforms he helped shape.

Some of these successes have been hard to celebrate as the state has weathered crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and this summer’s historic flooding, with high rates of homelessness persisting, Hanford said. But he said he believes the groundwork has been laid to allow for more housing to come online down the road.

“There’s some underlying, fundamental reform that’s been made in the last few years that, over time, will help,” he said in the interview. “And, over time, will provide the tools needed to enable more housing to serve our residents.”

More from Vermont Public and VTDigger: Vermont was already experiencing a housing crunch. Then came the summer floods.

Since flooding devastated many Vermont communities in July, Hanford has called out the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s low tally of destroyed homes as cause for concern. He has also pressed lawmakers to think beyond traditional settlement patterns — with many town centers sited in flood-prone areas — when considering rebuilding efforts.

He said he hopes that in his new position, working more closely with municipalities, he can help shape future discussions on building with flooding risks in mind while balancing the importance of preserving Vermont’s working lands, open spaces and historic downtowns.

Hanford said that he did not anticipate leaving his post during the flooding and its aftermath. “This opportunity was presented to me much earlier in the summer,” he said, adding that “it has been an honor to work for the governor.”

“Josh has been a valued member of my team during a time of unprecedented investments in housing,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a written statement. “While it’s difficult to see him go, I know he will serve municipalities well and ensure more Vermonters have access to affordable housing in vibrant communities, a goal we both share.”

Hanford is not the first commerce agency official to decamp to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. In 2021, then-Deputy Secretary Ted Brady left state government to become the league’s executive director.

Deputy Commissioner Alex Farrell will serve as interim commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development after Hanford’s departure, according to the press release.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Updated: September 7, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT
This post has been updated with additional comments from Josh Hanford.
Carly covers housing and infrastructure for Vermont Public and VTDigger and is a corps member with the national journalism nonprofit Report for America.
Latest Stories