On Thursday, the VT House of Representatives will debate a budget which includes major cuts to a program that pays for hotel rooms for homeless folks on the coldest nights of the year. Vermont spent $344,000 on the Cold Weather Exception in 2016, though that was down dramatically from $1.8 million in 2015 because of a more mild winter.
Legislators argue that money needs to be spent where we see the best results, and so using that money to fund shelters in Rutland and Montpelier would go further in helping to identify individuals who may be in need.
The state would continue to provide temporary emergency housing to victims of domestic violence, elderly and disabled Vermonters, pregnant women in their third trimester, and families with a child under age six. Those people qualify for motel rooms under catastrophic and vulnerable housing policies, which are different from the cold weather exception.
Read more about the proposed cuts from the Burlington Free Press.
April is Fair Housing Month!
Join the Fair Housing Project on Tuesday, April 4th at the Statehouse to celebrate the importance of Fair Housing in our communities. There are several exciting events happening that day that you’ll be sure not to miss. The agenda for the day so far is as follows:
8:30 AM – The Fair Housing Project and its partners will be in the Card Room to greet people and discuss the importance of April as Fair Housing Month. We will be in the area until around 3:30 PM. Our various organizations will have information available on their respective tables. We will also be distributing peel-off-stick-on April Fair Housing Month “buttons” that we hope you will wear to display your support for Fair Housing.
9:45 AM – Gather in the House Chamber.
10:00 AM – Join us in the House Chamber for a reading of the Concurrent Resolution declaring April 2017 as Fair Housing Month in Vermont. Those of us attending to witness the reading will be asked to rise for recognition during the session. Let’s show our legislators how dedicated our communities are to Fair Housing!
Please contact Ted Wimpey, Director of CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project, with any questions.
Check out the flyer for the day here.
The Vermont Senate Finance Committee OKed an amendment to S.100, an omnibus housing bill, which puts a $2 per night tax on hotels, motels, and airbnbs. The occupancy fee was a high priority of both the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and the Shumlin Administration’s Poverty Council.
This fee has the potential to raise more than $7.2 million annually in Vermont, $2.5 million of which would be used by the Vermont Housing Conservation Board to make payments on the $35 million housing bond that Scott proposed in his budget. Remaining funds would be allocated towards cleaning up Lake Champlain.
This fee was passed despite repeated warnings from the governor stating he would veto any budget that would raise fees or taxes. Currently, House Appropriations is considering cuts in various sectors in order to balance to budget including authorizing $2.5 million in cuts from the the Agency of Human Services grant program, which distributes more than $100 million a year to 1,200 nonprofits around the state.
Read the administration’s statement here.
Read more on the Occupancy Fee here.
Read more from on the legislature’s efforts to finalize the budget here.
[This post was corrected from an earlier version.]
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development recently released a draft of its action plan and fund allocation for comment by the public. A public hearing will be held on April 7, and written comments will be accepted through May 8. Read more here.
This Saturday, March 25, Volunteers In Action will bring the sleep Out movement to UVM’s campus for the first time. The Sleep Out movement is worldwide, and helps create awareness of local homelessness and organizations fighting to end homelessness. On the night of the sleep out, participants will sleep outside in unison with community members facing homelessness. Many former participants state the experience as eye-opening and life-changing.
The State of Vermont’s Ending Family Homelessness by 2020 campaign states that on any given night, over 1,100 Vermonters are without housing, one out of four of them being youth.
This past Thursday, more than 100 people slept out in the cold outside of Burlington’s Unitarian Church to help raise money and awareness for Spectrum. The organization expects to raise more than $250,000 as a result of these sleep outs.
The UVM Sleep Out will support Spectrum, the VCRHYP member agency of Chittenden County, which provides support services and temporary housing for youth experiencing homelessness or at-risk of losing their home.
There is no registration deadline for this event, ,but pre-registration is required. Learn more here.
Some of Vermont’s liberal legislators have suggested that tax increases may help to offset the budget gap that they are currently facing. Some representatives propose increasing taxes on the most wealthy Vermonters, increasing the minimum wage, enacting a paid leave program with a tax on it, and cutting funds that benefit businesses. Democrats are arguing that the wealthiest Vermonters can easily absorb these tax increases without issue. Further, liberals argue that cuts to certain programs that directly benefit businesses could save the state over $7 million dollars a year.
One program that is currently facing large cuts is the Cold Weather Exemption, which provides shelter to homeless Vermonters on the coldest nights of the year regardless of their eligibility status for GA Motel vouchers. These cuts could seriously jeopardize the state’s ability to provide shelter for our most vulnerable residents on nights when the weather is at its most brutal.
Read more here.
Vermont Housing Managers Association (VHMA) and Granite State Managers Association (GSMA) have joined forces to offer a day-long Fair Housing training with A. J. Johnson. This training will include the requirements of federal and state fair housing law with a specific concentration on components of the Federal Fair Housing Act relating to on site management and maintenance of apartment communities. Find more information here.
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro declared that the $6.2 million cuts from HUD by the Trump administration would significantly impede communities’ and states’ abilities to meet the housing needs of low and middle income residents. According to Castro, at current funding levels only 1 out of 4 people who qualify for HUD programs are being served, and that number will surely fall under the proposed cuts.
Castro also notes those who will be most affected and harmed by these cuts include homeless veterans, seniors and families, especially with regard to HOME and Community Development Block Grants. The money from these programs go to housing affordability, and thus without the funding, homelessness will likely only go up.
Read more here.
Currently, across the state of Vermont, 90 percent of residents who are being evicted have no attorney. Over and over again, tenants who are being evicted show up to court unprepared, with no sense of what to do or how to defend themselves. However, in order to assist those in danger of being evicted and make the courtroom more equitable, Judge Helen Toor has teamed up with Law Line. The goal of the partnership is to provide free legal assistance to those facing complicated eviction cases. Further, Vermont counties have begun to receive grants from federal organizations, such as Legal Services Corporation, in order to help aid those at risk of being evicted.
In Spring 2014, Toor proposed a clinic where tenants could receive free one-time representation by volunteer attorneys. After that one time, tenants would be required to pay rent to the court while the process continues. Additionally, Toor changed the court scheduling system so lawyers who wanted to volunteer for tenants could do so without exceeding their maximum number of cases in a single day.
Last Friday, Governor Phil Scott joined local, state and federal partners to announce a $525,000 community development grant to the City of South Burlington. The funds will support City Center Senior Housing – 39 units of affordable senior housing located in the City’s Tax Increment Finance District (TIF).
Private developers Chris Snyder and Kevin Braverman will join forces with Cathedral Square, a non-profit affordable housing provider, to build new senior housing on Market Street. This is the first of many proposed projects located in South Burlington’s new City Center. South Burlington voters approved the creation of a TIF District in 2012 and in 2016 approved the resulting $5 million bond issue to upgrade Market Street with sidewalks, utilities and infrastructure to support more housing and commercial development and create Dumont Park.
“This project would not be possible without the use of tax increment financing. It is a valuable development tool for communities, like South Burlington, to use in revitalizing their downtowns and village centers,” said Gov. Scott. “Tax increment financing has demonstrated benefits to supporting the type of development projects we need to make housing more affordable for all.”
The $525,000 Vermont Community Development Program grant awarded to the City of South Burlington is one of many competitive awards made from the State’s federal allocation of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The State awards approximately $7 million annually in competitive grants through its Department of Housing and Community Development. The CDBG grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Vermont’s congressional delegation has been steadfast in supporting the funding that makes this program possible.
Read more on the project from VTDigger.
Watch the report on WCAX.