The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition Fully Supports the Burlington Just Cause Charter Change Pro
It has recently come to our attention that a group calling itself “Vermonters for Housing Affordability” has been mailing flyers, postcards, and other propaganda opposing the proposal for a Just Cause Eviction charter change to Burlington voters. Please know that the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition is not associated with or aligned with “Vermonters for Housing Affordability” in any way. According to filings with the Vermont Secretary of State, “Vermonters for Housing Affordability” is a Political Action Committee created by the Vermont Association of Realtors. Please do not confuse this PAC with our Coalition, as our values and priorities do not align on this issue.
VAHC is proud to be one of many organizations supporting the Just Cause Coalition in its effort to change Burlington’s charter and implement Just Cause Eviction. This is an effort to preserve housing affordability in Burlington and provide more stability and security for renters. Current Vermont law allows for termination of tenancy for no cause. This most often occurs at the end of lease periods, and allows landlords to evict tenants even if the tenants have paid rent on time and have never broken their leases. A recent report by Vermont Legal Aid analyzing eviction data over the last five fiscal years found that there were an annual average of 368 evictions filed in Chittenden County and 20% of all filed eviction cases were for no cause at all. We also know that many no cause terminations never go to court because tenants leave under the threat of eviction. No cause evictions give landlords outsized power and deprive renters of the basic assurance that they can remain in their home. The proposal to implement Just Cause Eviction would merely require Burlington landlords to provide a reason—such as nonpayment of rent or a lease violation—to evict their tenants, and the current proposal includes reasonable exemptions for landlords.
As an organization that has fought for housing affordability in Vermont for nearly 30 years, we at VAHC know that Just Cause Eviction would play a major role in preserving affordable housing in Burlington. While the Vermont Association of Realtors PAC claims to represent “Vermonters for Affordability,” this is extremely misleading. Just Cause Eviction protects communities from ballooning rents, wide-scale displacement, destabilization, and ultimately gentrification. Although Just Cause Eviction differs from measures such as rent control or rent stabilization, the ordinance would limit landlords’ abilities to dramatically increase rents so as to trigger a de facto eviction. Unsurprisingly, when enacted in other cities across the country, Just Cause Eviction ordinances have proven to significantly decrease overall rates of eviction: a Princeton study on the effect of Just Cause in four California cities shows that overall eviction rates dropped by 0.808 percentage points after passing the ordinance. We are disappointed and concerned that opponents of this charter change are resorting to misleading tactics that appear designed to confuse voters in order to retain the power of landlords to evict with no cause.
In addition to suggesting that Just Cause Eviction will threaten housing affordability, we have seen many signs around Burlington that claim Just Cause Eviction will harm such groups as BIPOC and female tenants. These statements are not supported by evidence or research. Data shows that nationwide, women and people of color are in fact disproportionately impacted by eviction. A nationwide study conducted by the Princeton Eviction Lab found that Black renters faced eviction at nearly twice the rate of white renters, and risk of eviction is higher for women than men. While we know that a Just Cause ordinance is not a silver bullet in solving the nation’s eviction crisis, nor in remedying the United States’ history of discriminatory housing politics, prohibiting evictions that occur with no cause is a critical step in the right direction that would ultimately increase protections for historically marginalized communities.
More than 2,000 Burlington tenants in public housing and affordable rental housing funded with federal housing tax credits currently enjoy the protection afforded by Just Cause Eviction policies. VAHC’s members, which include all of Vermont’s nonprofit affordable housing providers and public housing authorities, abide by Just Cause provisions and know that these measures help support more stable, long-lasting communities. VAHC’s members support Burlington’s efforts, as the Just Cause Eviction proposal would hold private landlords to the same standards as our affordable housing providers, with reasonable exceptions for some small landlords who live in the same building as their tenants.
For more accurate information about Just Cause, please read the Just Cause Coalition’s FAQ and join CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project for a panel discussion on the intersections of Just Cause and housing equity. And Burlington voters, please vote yes on #5!