While the winter season has brought forth colder days and darker evenings, some glimmers of excitement have emerged as the start of a new year and a changing Vermont draw near. Besides the rapid approach of a new legislative session in January, the political landscape of our state delegation is on the move and discussions and actions on how to deal with Vermont’s housing crisis are on the rise.
At the local level, towns and cities continue to discuss local housing needs, zoning, and the spending of pandemic-relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). One example is in Burlington where re-zoning in the Queen City’s South End is being investigated with a focus on affordable housing. In an area that is currently occupied by art studios, light industrial buildings, and paved parking lots, developers are suggesting working with the city to build affordable apartment units geared towards working Burlingtonians.
Beyond this, at the state level, advocates have already made strides in housing action by pressuring the Scott Administration to continue and expand the GA Motel Program which typically shelters unhoused Vermonters during inclement weather and has also sheltered Vermonters throughout the pandemic in order to mitigate community-spread of COVID-19 in public areas and in congregant shelters. After sleeping on the steps of the State House in Montpelier for 27 nights, activists successfully saw the Department of Children and Families expand the temporary shelter program by easing restrictions around income and adverse weather conditions.
So overall, positive and meaningful changes are not just observable, but can even be realized right now through the hard work and dedication of regular Vermonters whether manifested through a simple act like writing your representatives or demonstrating on the steps of the State House. With that in mind, the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC) is eager to expand its reach in order to bring all Vermonters together to renew the fight against the housing crisis come the start of the legislative session. As a part of an ongoing resident engagement pilot program, the Coalition’s #housed802 initiative is continuing to host monthly community meetings with residents of Washington County in order to provide civic training, legislative updates, and an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals within the diverse range of Vermont residents who are impacted by the housing crisis. Not only is this program an effort to educate and reach out, but it also serves to invite regular Vermonters to help steer the Coalition’s work and advocate together to find solutions to housing and increase funding and support to existing programs.
In the end, change is on the horizon and we may see one kind of change or another even if we do not take action. However, the Coalition is committed to driving that change with you in order to build a Vermont where all have access to safe, accessible, quality, and perpetually affordable housing.
VAHC’s next #housed802 Community Meeting will be held on December 14th at 7:00pm at Montpelier’s Trinity Methodist Church (137 Main Street) and will focus on the topic of “Vermont Government 101” and how you can affect change and influence policy at the State House. To find out more please sign up for our Community Meeting’s email list here or reach out to our Resident Engagement VISTA, Justin Srsic, at email@example.com.