Better Days (and Community Meetings) Ahead!
Between the continuing presence of COVID-19, the incredibly cold temperatures here in Vermont, and the disappointing predictions of a certain groundhog in my home region today, it’s easy to be slightly pessimistic about the current state of affairs when it comes to the shrinking housing stock and rising prices we have been facing. Regardless of these challenges though, I cannot help but be hopeful in seeing slightly warmer temperatures on our doorstep, legislators working diligently on housing bills, and being able to talk to folks at VAHC’s first virtual community meeting of our #Housed802 program!
While any attempts at an in-person program were stymied thanks to the Omicron variant, our Zoom call last week was just as fruitful if not more so. After taking some time for all of us to catch up and connect (that “community” aspect that often gets left behind through the computer screen) we were able to hear from two Coalition members about two legislative priorities, how they are faring in Montpelier, and the impact that they would have on regular Vermonters like us.
VAHC’s Director, David Martins, first presented on the Rental Housing Safety Bill (S.210) in the Senate and how it would both benefit renters and landlords. Health inspections would become more easily accessible for tenants, and landlords would not only be placed on a registry to receive information about new programs from the state, but would also be able to take advantage of the Vermont Home Improvement Program to receive funds to rehabilitate units that fall short of health and safety codes in order to keep them online for renters.
After this, Liz Curry of CommonLand Solutions talked about the history of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund and its importance in fighting the housing crisis. While the fund is supposed to receive half of the revenue of the state property transfer tax by statute, it generally just receives a quarter which hinders the development of new affordable housing. Ultimately, full statutory funding would result in the construction of more housing, more homeownership opportunities, and healthier existing homes including mobile homes.
Following an engaging discussion about these two issues, the meeting concluded with a dialogue on what the next steps are and how these gatherings can move forward productively. We concluded that while these meetings will continue to provide information on VAHC’s efforts on different priorities and what they mean for Vermonters, it’s important that we as members of the community be included in this work and have access to ways to get involved. At future meetings this might include letter-writing, strategies for talking to your representatives, and hopefully in-person activities too! (pending warm weather and safer COVID conditions.)
Much like our in-person meetings in the fall, these community meetings will occur monthly and information about future dates and times will be made available on social media and our website, www.vtaffordablehousing.org. Along with this, a recording of our January meeting is available for all to view here. Overall, we can’t wait to welcome you and collaborate as one big Vermont community. Through our work, I know that we can end the housing crisis together and ensure that all in the 802 can be housed safely, adequately, and affordably!