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Governor Shumlin Declares April as Fair Housing Month

Posted April 11, 2016

April marks the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In commemoration of this important anniversary, Governor Shumlin has issued an Executive Order proclaiming April as Fair Housing Month in the State of Vermont. The landmark 1968 legislation provided protection from discrimination in housing choice, an incredibly important expansion of the original Civil Rights Act, which had been signed into law four years prior. While the Federal statute protects against housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability, Vermont has taken further steps to expand this protection to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, marital status, gender identity, and receipt of public assistance. And, recognizing that protecting housing choice for all Vermonters requires there to be housing to choose from, in 2012 legislation was enacted in Vermont that barred land use decisions being made based on the income of prospective tenants. It is through these steps and the continued efforts of organizations across the state that we will continue to work towards ensuring that every Vermonter has the ability to choose where they live, free from illegal discrimination.

A copy of the Executive Order can be found on the Governor’s website:
http://governor.vermont.gov/sites/governor/files/proclamations/16-035%20Fair%20Housing%20Month.pdf

 



Housing: Fair, Safe, Affordable: Burlington’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance

Posted March 21, 2016

Ted Wimpey, Director of CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project is joined by East District City Councilor Selene Colburn who serves as Chair of the Burlington Council’s Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalizatoin (CDNR) Committee. Ted and Selene provide a history, overview and purpose for the ordinance, and speak to the current process leading to a pending consultant’s review of the ordinance as recommended by the Burlington Housing Action Plan. A Request for Proposal drafted by the City’s Community and Economic Development Office, and the Mayor’s Office, for solicitation of prospective consultant bids is under review by the CDNR committee.

To view the program, view the embedded video below, click here, or tune into Channel 17 at 3:00pm on Monday March 21st, 28th, or April 4th.

 



Subscribe to the “Thriving Communities: Building a Vibrant Inclusive Vermont” Newsfeed

Posted November 6, 2015

The “Thriving Communities: Building a Vibrant Inclusive Vermont” now has an email based newsfeed! If you haven’t done so already you can sign up here to receive the newsletter, which is sent out to subscribers only one time daily if any new items have been posted that day.

Posts on thriving communities, inclusive communities, housing affordability, fair housing and many other housing issues are made regularly. This blog e-newsletter feed is free. You will be able to easily “unsubscribe” at any time if you wish. Subscribing will not get you on any mail lists other than the blog e-newsletter feed list itself.

To view the recent posts to the blog, click here.

 



Thriving Communities: Building a Vibrant, Inclusive Vermont Seminars

Posted October 1, 2015

This seminar will offer usable perspectives on providing housing choices, transportation options, and employment opportunities for a range of people at different levels of income; and on building economically vibrant, inclusive communities in Vermont.

Thriving communities welcome a mix of people, regardless of race or ethnicity, and they embrace diversity. These communities include younger and older people, people with different abilities and people with children, families with rising incomes and families on fixed incomes. They promote a mix of land uses and building types, creating opportunities for economic growth, essential services, stable businesses, agriculture, and tourism.

Your choice of dates, locations:

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Ilsley Public Library; 75 Main St.; Middlebury

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Norwich Public Library; 368 Main St.; Norwich

Monday, Nov. 30, 2015
4-5:30 p.m.
NVDA; 36 Eastern Ave.; St. Johnsbury

 



“Building a Vibrant, Inclusive Vermont” Webinar – Friday, September, 18th

Posted September 15, 2015

The Thriving Communities campaign will be hosting a webinar titled “Building a Vibrant, Inclusive Vermont” on Friday, September 18th:

On behalf of the statewide “Thriving Communities” campaign and the Fair Housing Project of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, I am pleased to invite you to this live webinar and discussion about building inclusive and economically vibrant communities in Vermont.

This webinar will offer usable perspectives on providing housing choices, transportation options, and employment opportunities for a range of people at different levels of income; and on building economically vibrant, inclusive communities in Vermont.

Thriving communities welcome a mix of people, regardless of race or ethnicity, and they embrace diversity. These communities include younger and older people, people with different abilities and people with children, families with rising incomes and families on fixed incomes. They promote a mix of land uses and building types, creating opportunities for economic growth, essential services, stable businesses, agriculture, and tourism.

We hope to engage both policymakers and interested citizens in this discussion concerning the future potential of your towns and neighborhoods.

To join “Building a Vibrant, Inclusive Vermont” please register for the webinar to be held on September 18, 2015 2:00 PM EDT here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 



VT Digger Report on Meeting of the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Posted August 17, 2015

Last week the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a public meeting to discuss housing discrimination in Vermont. Below is an excerpt from a VT Digger report on the panel discussion that took place:

Mary Brown-Guillory, president of the Champlain area National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told a statewide civil rights panel Monday that her organization has received an “avalanche” of discrimination complaints.

In the month since they’ve been “open for business,” Vermont’s first NAACP chapter has received at least 50 complaints. Most involve discrimination, she said, including housing discrimination.

“Individuals do not want to sell their property to people of color,” Brown-Guillory said.

Housing discrimination and possible solutions were the topic of Monday’s panel discussion meant to brief the Vermont State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, according to their website. The commission’s goal is to give information pursuant to the development of national civil rights policy and improve enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

Brown-Guillory said minority college students and recent grads have to use a friend’s name to apply for housing because landlords won’t rent to people with ethnic-sounding names.

Her son, a recent college graduate, wasn’t able to find a landlord willing to rent to him in Vermont because he is African American, she said, and he ended up moving to New York City.

“It is a big concern to me that young people of color are not able to find housing here,” she said. “I mean, I know that we’re trying to diversify the state.” Vermont is among the whitest states in the country with 95 percent white residents, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Brown-Guillory said that she also knows of two instances where people were discriminated against for their religion.

“The property owner makes the decision on who they want to rent to and it doesn’t matter what your credit score is or if you are willing to pay six months’ rent up front,” she said.

Diane Snelling, chair of the Vermont State Advisory Committee to the commission, said in an Aug. 3 press release that past reports by the Vermont State Advisory Committee to the commission have brought about “significant policy changes” in Vermont and that the committee’s review of fair housing issues is “timely and compelling.”

Vermont Legal Aid, a civil rights nonprofit law firm, recently released data from a study conducted by its fair housing program. The study shows preferential treatment toward white residents without children and without an apparent disability, said Marsha Curtis, of Vermont Legal Aid.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminating against an individual because of their race, color, national origin, disability, sex, religion or familial status. Legal Aid’s Housing Discrimination Law Project has found anecdotal evidence of unlawful discrimination in Vermont, said staff attorney Rebecca Plummer.

While conducting the tests related to national origin and race, the discrimination found was often subtle, and sometimes the testers didn’t even know they were being discriminated against, Curtis said. When it came to tests concerning familial status and disability, discrimination was less subtle, she said. Sometimes there were even direct discriminatory statements.

Curtis said this helped to explain why the Housing Discrimination Law Project and the Vermont Human Rights Commission receive more complaints of discrimination based on disability and familial status than race and national origin.

The testing was largely conducted in Chittenden County, and while other areas were tested as well they didn’t have enough statistical data to be compared accurately to Chittenden County, Curtis said.

Plummer said that there should be mandatory fair housing training for all Vermont housing providers.

One of the panelists, David Sagi, an American Disabilities Act program manager, said housing units and apartment complexes in Vermont could be more accessible for elderly or disabled people.

Eight of 10 accessibility audits conducted by Vermont Legal Aid in 2012 and 2013 on newly-constructed, multi-family housing units found some level of noncompliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction accessibility requirements, Curtis said.

To continue reading the article, click here.

 



VT Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights meeting Monday, August 10

Posted August 6, 2015

The Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will convene a public meeting to examine the persistence of housing discrimination in Vermont. The meeting will be held in the Vermont State House, Room 11, 115 State Street, Montpelier.

Forty-seven years ago President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), a federal law aimed at ending blatant housing discrimination against African Americans. The law also proscribes housing discrimination based on national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.

In the last few months, there has been more attention on housing discrimination. In June, President Obama announced new rules against racial discrimination in the housing market and the Supreme Court upheld the use of the disparate impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would provide $39.2 million to fight housing discrimination under HUD’s 2015 Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

Despite laws banning housing discrimination, Vermont housing analysts say it is an ongoing issue in Vermont and that discrimination is sometimes subtle. In 2014, Vermont Legal Aid released the results of a two-year study it undertook to look at housing discrimination in Vermont. According to Vermont Legal Aid, the testing results demonstrate “preferential treatment toward White testers of U.S. origin without children and without an apparent disability.”

The Advisory Committee will hear from government officials, representatives of advocacy organizations, and other experts to better understand the scope of housing discrimination in Vermont and potential solutions to remedy the problem. The briefing is open to the public.

Agenda

Panel One (10 to 11:15)

  • Marsha Curtis, Testing Coordinator, Vermont Legal Aid, Housing Discrimination Law Project
  • Rebecca Plummer, Staff Attorney, Vermont Legal Aid, Housing Discrimination Law Project
  • Karen Richards, Executive Director, Human Rights Commission
  • Ted Wimpey, Project Director, Fair Housing Project, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity

Panel Two (11:25 to 12:25)

  • Jen Hollar, Deputy Commissioner, ACCD/Dept. of Housing & Community Development
  • David Sagi, ADA Program Manager, AHS/Department ofDisabilities, Aging & Independent Living
  • Cliff Bergh, Director of Field Services, Vermont State Housing Authority

Panel Three (1:00 to 2:00)

  • David DeAngelis, Section 8/Grants Administrator, Brattleboro Housing Authority
  • Angela Zaikowski, Vermont Apartment Owners Association

Panel Four (2:00 to 3:00)

  • Jacob Bogre, Executive Director, Association for Africans Living in Vermont
  • Mary Brown Guillory, President, NAACP, Greater Champlain Chapter
  • Sarah Launderville, Executive Director, Vermont Center for Independent Living

Open Session

When: Monday, August 10, 2015 – 10:00am to 3:00pm

 



Progress for More Housing Choices

Posted July 23, 2015

Ted Wimpey, director of the Fair Housing Project of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity and Chair of the VAHC, recently wrote this opinion piece published in the Times Argus that discusses the Fair Housing Act and the new statewide initiative, “Thriving Communities: Building a vibrant, inclusive Vermont”:

Seldom does the unveiling of a seemingly obscure federal regulation become a big news event.

That’s what happened Wednesday, July 8, however, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its long-awaited rule on “affirmatively furthering fair housing.”

The rule won cheers from fair housing advocates — including me — who believe it could be a major step forward in expanding housing opportunity for millions of Americans. And it meets jeers from anti-“big” government skeptics who see it as an example of egregious federal overreach.

The skeptics have it wrong, but before I explain why, some background:

The phrase “affirmatively furthering fair housing” — a tongue-twister, admittedly — has its origin in a landmark piece of civil rights legislation, the Fair Housing Act of 1968. That law essentially declared that Americans have a right to choose where they live without being discriminated against based on several criteria including race, color and national origin.

The Fair Housing Act and its amendments made it illegal, among other things, to refuse to rent or sell real estate to someone because of race, national origin or disability, among other “protected classes.” But the law, passed by Congress soon after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and in the face of widespread racial segregation and social unrest, went beyond banning discrimination.

It also sought to desegregate neighborhoods and to promote development of more inclusive communities, so that people with a wide range of incomes and backgrounds would have opportunities to live in optimal-opportunity areas with access to good jobs, good schools and other quality goods and services.

Alas, the vision of fully expanding opportunity and breaking up concentrations of poverty has hardly been fulfilled. Nearly a half-century after the act’s passage, residential segregation by race remains pervasive in major metropolitan areas across the country; and economic inequality, reflected in residential demographic patterns, continues to widen.

Reversing these trends, and proactively opening up housing choices for people in protected classes, is what HUD’s rule is all about. That was the intent of the act’s primary sponsors, back in the Civil Rights era, so this is by no means a “new” federal policy priority.

What’s new is that the lofty old legislative phrase, “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” has been given an operational meaning in service of the act’s equal-opportunity ideal — an ideal that most Americans embrace.

In particular, the rule provides guidance to states, counties and municipalities that receive federal development funds on how to meet their fair housing obligations by identifying and overcoming historic barriers to equal housing opportunity. Making sure that federal tax dollars are used to protect fair housing rights and to expand opportunity — rather than to perpetuate pockets of segregation or poverty — hardly qualifies as “overreach.” It’s a matter of implementing longstanding principles of fairness. It’s also a matter of holding recipients of federal grants accountable to the values embodied in the Fair Housing Act.

Vermont benefits from various forms of federal assistance including that aimed at adding to the affordable housing stock. The continuing shortage of affordable housing has been critical for years, and remains so. More than half of Vermont’s renters are paying more of their income for total housing cost than they can be reasonably expected to afford, and home ownership remains out of reach for many people.

What does affirmatively furthering fair housing mean in Vermont? At a minimum it means maintaining vigilance regarding most blatant housing discrimination, as our predominantly white state welcomes increasing numbers of refugees and other people of color. Moreover, Vermont’s own fair housing law goes beyond the federal act in extending protection to people for their sexual orientation or receipt of public assistance.

But it also means recognizing, and overcoming, more subtle systemic barriers to fair and affordable housing choice. Where planning and zoning regulations effectively preclude the development of affordable and mixed income housing in high-opportunity areas near town centers, for example, communities need to consider how they can revise policies to make them more inclusive. After all, communities thrive when they welcome a wide variety of residents, with assorted skills and backgrounds, who can drive the local economy and enliven the local culture.

That’s the premise of a new statewide initiative, “Thriving Communities: Building a vibrant, inclusive Vermont.” (For more information, go to the website, thrivingcommunitiesvt.org) The aim is to promote the development of affordable housing, especially in mixed-income areas near town centers with ready access to transit and quality services — in other words, to “affirmatively further fair housing” in a Vermont way and make communities thrive for us all.

 



Save the Date: Fair Housing Accessibility Training in Randolph Center, June 2nd

Posted April 17, 2015

On Tuesday, June 2nd a Fair Housing Accessibility Training will be held at the Red Schoolhouse, Vermont Technical College, 46 South Randolph Road, Randolph Center, VT. This FREE training is presented by the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Program, which provides training and technical assistance on the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act with assistance from HUD. The training is sponsored by VHCB and co-sponsored by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Vermont Human Rights Commission, Vermont Center for Independent Living, and Vermont Legal Aid.

The training will focus on the design and construction aspects of the Fair Housing Act. The presenter will be Jack Catlin, FAIA, a partner at LCM Architects and former chair of the U.S. Access Board. The following modules will be covered:

Module 10 – Design and Construction Requirements of the Fair Housing Act: Technical Overview
Module 7 – Accessible Routes
Module 8 – Accessible Public and Common-Use Areas

This information is crucial for developers and architects who need to understand the details of the Fair Housing Act’s design requirements.

REGISTER NOW: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/randolph-center-vermont-fair-housing-first-accessibility-training-registration-13684004225
If you have questions, please contact Grace Sonnabend at LCM Architects at GSonnabend@lcmarchitects.com.

For more information, click here to view the event flyer (PDF).

fairhousingtraining

 



Gov. Shumlin Signs Two Housing Protection Bills into Law

Posted

Yesterday Gov. Peter Shumlin marked the anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act by signing two housing protection bills into law and declaring April Fair Housing Month. The first bill, H.123, ensures mobile home parks are safely maintained and abandoned mobile homes can be dealt with fairly and expeditiously. Also enacted today was H.256, which corrects and confirms protections against retaliation for exercising fair housing rights.

“It is integral that we protect the right of Vermonters to live in safe and healthy communities, and these bills will do just that,” said Gov. Shumlin.

Each April, Governor Shumlin and governors before him set aside time to remember the great step in Civil Rights taken through the signing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects the right to housing choice regardless of color, race or national origin. Since then Vermont has made greater progress, ensuring that housing choice is not limited by someone’s age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or because they receive public assistance.

“Barriers to safe, decent and affordable housing are not always financial. Sadly, discrimination and disrepair sometimes prevent Vermonters from finding a home or being safe in the one they have.” said Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Community Development. “Today and every day, we must work together to lower these barriers. This legislation gives us more practical tools for ensuring homes are safe and their doors are open to all.”

H.123 recognizes that a safe, healthy community should not be dependent upon the type of housing one chooses. This bill makes certain that residents of a mobile home park have access to emergency response services and will not be needlessly subjected to blighted and abandoned homes in their communities. It also gives the Department of Housing and Community Development the ability to ensure habitability standards are maintained and that leases governing these communities are not discriminatory.

H.256 contains a technical correction to Fair Housing protections that ensures Vermont continues its role in maintaining and surpassing Federal standards regarding the ability of citizens to ensure they are treated fairly in their housing. It also brings additional clarity to property rights in a residential rental agreement to encourage a functional rental market.

The Governor thanked Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal) for his sponsorship and longstanding support of mobile home park residents. He also acknowledged the leadership of House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee Chairwoman Helen Head (D-South Burlington), Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington), and Senate Economic, Housing and General Affairs Committee Chairman Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), in guiding the legislation through their committees and chambers.

 



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