In the typical cluster of campaign signs spotted around the Queen City ahead of Town Meeting Day, one sign in particular has local and state leaders upset. It reads “vote no on just cause, protect BIPOC tenants from racist neighbors.”
“Its gas-lighting for them to see these signs because we know black Vermonters face more housing discrimination,” said Sen. Kesha Ram of Chittenden County. “Then to see these signs absolutely speaking for those communities that the people that authored these signs don’t belong to, was really painful.”
Right now, a landlord in Burlington can evict a tenant for no substantial reason. If the measure passes, they would need ‘just cause’ such as not paying rent or violent behavior. City councilor Zoraya Hightower took to twitter, condemning the signs in a taped clip.
“This is about power wanting to maintain power,” she said. “The fact that they’re using racial justice language to justify hurting BIPOC people is disgusting.”
By Tuesday, it was nearly impossible to locate any of the signs in downtown Burlington. There were plenty supporting the cause. We did spot one of the original signs where an advocate covered ‘vote no’ with ‘yes’. Hightower did point blame at the Vermont Association of Realtors.
“The signs were never part of our program,” said Phil Tucker of the Association of Realtors. “They were put up by some other unknown group at this point.”
While the association says they’re not responsible for the signs, they do oppose passing the ‘just cause’ measure. Tucker believes it would give property owners less rights to use the property as they see fit and could lead to them taking it off the rental market.
“In Burlington where the vacancy rate is around 1%, even a small reduction in inventory is going to have a huge impact on the rental housing market,” he said.
Burlingtonians will vote on the measure March 2.