Fair Housing Month: Housing Inequality in Vermont
Each April, the state of Vermont joins national housing advocates to celebrate Fair Housing Month. The month commemorates the passing of the Fair Housing Act in April 1968, and raises awareness about tenants’ rights and housing discrimination. Fair Housing Events in Vermont are coordinated by the Fair Housing Project of CVOEO, in collaboration with various community partners.
Fair Housing is the right to equal opportunity in housing choice and the right to rent or buy a home free from discrimination. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, passed as a component of the sweeping Civil Rights Act, sought to reduce housing inequality by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex during the process of acquiring or financing housing. Familial status and disability were added as protected classes in 1988.
The State of Vermont passed its own Fair Housing Act in 1987, which expanded protections against discrimination beyond those enacted in the federal statute. The six additional protected categories are marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, receipt of public assistance, and victims of abuse.
Despite Vermont’s expanded protection, housing inequality and discrimination are still rampant across the state. In tests conducted by the Vermont Legal Aid’s Housing Discrimination Law Project, results indicated that housing providers generally disfavored African American renters, renters of foreign origin, renters with children, and renters with disabilities.
Vermont also has a shortage of housing, especially that which is affordable to low- and middle-income Vermonters, which raises fair housing concerns. The lowest income Vermonters are often members of one or more protected classes, and according to Legal Aid, there is a “high degree of correlation between being poor and being discriminated against on a basis prohibited by law.”
Research conducted by VHFA for their 2020-2025 Housing Needs Assessment also reveals racial disparities in housing among Vermonters. The state has a disproportionately low homeownership rate among black households: only 21% of black households are homeowners, whereas 70% of white households are homeowners. This disparity far exceeds the national rates, where 70% of White households and 41% of Black households are homeowners.
Continued barriers to housing in Vermont and nationally arise from decades of structural racism in national public policy. With Vermont’s housing shortage and growing income disparities, strong public investment and enforcement of fair housing law is needed now more than ever.
Vermont Fair Housing Events for the remainder of April:
Fair Housing Month activities in Vermont are coordinated by the Fair Housing Project of CVOEO, in collaboration with various community partners. Some of the remaining events are listed below -- find the full schedule of events here.
#housed802 Community Meeting: Fair Housing Month
Tuesday, April 26, 7 - 8:30 pm
To conclude Fair Housing Month, VAHC’s #Housed802 Community Meeting will be holding a discussion on legislation that aims to further protect Vermonters from discrimination in housing and other areas. VAHC will welcome Bor Yang, the Executive Director of VT Human Rights Commission, to discuss H.329, a bill in the House of Representatives that expands upon discrimination protections Vermonters when it comes to housing. We will also be joined by Rep. Brian Cina, to discuss BIPOC property ownership bill, H. 273.
Community Partnerships to Address Housing Needs
Wednesday, April 27, 2 - 3 pm
Join the Fair Housing Project of CVOEO, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Vermont Legal Aid to learn more about Fair Housing Month, housing justice, how the state is addressing the current housing crisis, and how librarians can best connect people who are experiencing evictions to local and statewide resources and services. This session is open to everyone and will include a Q&A session.
Presented by the Vermont Department of Libraries with guests Jess Hyman of CVOEO, David Martins of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Bor Yang of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Brooke Stellman of Vermont Legal Aid.
Fair Housing Friday: Is Building More the Cure?
Friday, April 29, 12:30 - 1:30 pm
In this final Fair Housing Friday for Fair Housing Month, we will discuss how relying on development alone won’t ensure housing opportunities for the communities with the greatest housing needs in Vermont. Featuring Bor Yang, Executive Director of the VT Human Rights Commission; Owiso Makuku, CEO of Main Street Landing and VT Affordable Housing Coalition Steering Committee Member; and Elizabeth Bridgewater, Executive Director of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.
Opening Reception: What Does a Thriving, Inclusive Community Look Like?
Friday, April 29, 5 - 7 pm
Arts So Wonderful and CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project invited artists to respond to the prompt What does a Thriving, Inclusive Community look like?
For this series, artists of all ages, mediums, and backgrounds responded to the prompt What makes a thriving, inclusive community? Artists were invited to consider the important ways the Fair Housing Act continues to shape our communities through the medium and visual language of their choice.
The exhibition opens on Friday, April 29th with the reception happening from 5-7 pm at the Arts So Wonderful gallery at the University Mall, 155 Dorset St., South Burlington, VT 05403. The work will be on display through the months of May and June.