Last night, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger presented his Housing Action Plan to the City Council and members of the public. The article below from the Burlington Free Press discusses this presentation of the plan and challenges that lie ahead:
A far-reaching plan to improve housing in Burlington will likely get more public input before it gets City Council approval.
Public comment and discussion among councilors Monday night tilted toward extending a final decision by at least a month — an inclination recognized by Council President Jane Knodell, P-Central District.
The proposed Housing Action Plan addresses challenges in affordability, accessibility, financing, parking and the impact of college and university students.
In his written introduction to the plan, Mayor Miro Weinberger termed the policy as “a re-commitment” to housing, a re-framing of long-standing goals; and an outline of goals that does not bind the city to any specific actions or expenditures.
On Monday night, the plan received kudos and criticism from about a dozen speakers.
Kirby Dunn, executive director of HomeShare Vermont, praised the initiatives breadth, and its sense of urgency.
“I think we should move on the plan and move on it quickly,” Dunn said. “I’m thrilled that it’s moving forward.”
Kelly Devine, executive director of the Burlington Business Association, likewise called for its passage — which until Monday, had been scheduled for City Council’s meeting on April 27.
“There isn’t enough housing stock for pretty much every segment of our community. It’s hurting our ability to thrive and grow,” Devine said.
Knodell recommended the council wait until after a public information meeting scheduled for May 7 at Contois Auditorium by the All Wards Neighborhood Planning Assembly (NPA).
That deadline extension suited Charles Simpson, among those who spoke against early adoption.
In an email to city councilors, the Ward-6 resident said the housing plan reduced the problem to a question of supply and demand.
Instead, Simpson said, the city should focus on “building community rather than incentivizing opportunities for speculative development.”
Lifting restrictions for on-site parking, he added, “is simply a gift to developers and a punishment to neighborhoods that will have to absorb much of this parking at a social and practical cost.”
Simpson and others questioned some of the plan’s presentation of statistics, including the number of off-campus university students.
The plan’s draft form was drawn up over the past six month with administrators and with the council’s Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, then chaired by Knodell.
Still in-progress, Burlington’s “Housing Action Plan” compiles an ambitious list of goals for a city noted for old and highly priced housing stock.
A summary of those goals:
- Re-examine regulations that have slowed development and redevelopment of housing (including rules that dictate parking, restrict designs and use; and impose high building fees).
- Firm up policies that would expand support (financial and regulatory) for low- and moderate-income housing.
- Reduce impact of college and university students on housing in the city.
- Support measures to reduce chronic homelessness (by prioritizing housing as a platform for addressing other economic and health issues); and explore a “low-barrier” shelter that would accommodate people under the influence.
- Increase housing options for the elderly, through new accessibility standards and “accessory dwellings” on a property (often termed “mother-in-law apartments).
- City Council will again disucss the Housing Action Plan at its meeting on April 27.
- An All-Wards Neighborhood Planning Assembly “Housing Summit” is planned for May 7.