Yesterday, the Council on Pathways From Poverty delivered their annual report to the Governor. Below is an excerpt from a VT Digger article on the report, which highlights the need for affordable housing and includes some words from VAHC Coordinator Erhard Mahnke, who is the Chair of the Council’s Housing and Homelessness sub-committee:
Advocates are backing a hotel occupancy fee to help the state tackle homelessness and affordable housing issues. In the Pathways from Poverty Council’s annual report to the governor, delivered Thursday, advocates recommended imposing a $2 per night fee on hotel rooms that would go to supporting efforts to reduce homelessness. The report highlighted affordable housing as “key to the well-being of Vermonters.” It was one of the four major focuses for the 30-member council’s report, along with education, administrative systems and economic security. The council proposes that the state curb the housing affordability crisis by making new investments in permanent low-cost housing, providing more rental assistance and increasing supportive services. “One of the challenges for advocates historically has been pointing out where there are problems and not always coming up with a funding solutions,” Chris Curtis, co-chair of the council, said Thursday. The state has “an affordable housing crisis on its hands,” Curtis said, and the fee could make a big difference for the state in addressing that, including by moving away from the emergency housing motel voucher program. Meanwhile, the fee would largely be shouldered by tourists, and is “less than the cost of a cup of coffee at many of these establishments,” he said. Pathways member Erhard Mahnke, of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, emphasized the report’s call for investment in constructing affordable housing. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board has been underfunded in recent years, and “the chickens are coming home to roost,” he said. “We have a protracted affordable housing crisis.” Linda Ryan, co-chair council and executive director of Samaritan House, a shelter in St. Albans, said Thursday that funding is critical to efforts to end family homelessness, and other major anti-poverty goals of the administration. “We’re not going to do that unless we can raise some revenue,” she said. Housing affordability is a major barrier to low-income Vermonters, she said. “As everyone knows, the wages are low and the rents are high,” Ryan said.