Burlington mayor outlines housing reform priorities

Local News

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is making the point that the Queen City has a housing crisis through a citywide housing summit.

He wants to bring new legislation to the City Council later this year to address unfinished priorities from Burlington’s 2015 Housing Action Plan.

Mandating energy efficiency in rental housing, regulating short-term rental units like AirBNBs, and changing the parking minimums required for new homes are just some of the housing reforms the mayor says the city will look at this year.

“Whether you care about homelessness or income inequality or climate change or job creation or just the general cost of government, all of those challenges are made worse by the shortage of homes in this community,” Weinberger said.

However, more than 60% of Burlington’s population is made up of tenants rather than homeowners.

“I think it really says a lot about what this administration has focused on the last seven years, and unfortunately, what they’re going to continue to focus on, which is this idea that we need all housing, even though when you look at the data, we need housing for folks that are very low-income,” Burlington renter Charles Winkleman said.

The city is also thinking about the idea of boosting the Housing Trust Fund, which builds and preserves affordable housing. The fund got about the same amount of property tax revenue this year that it got in 1990, and inflation has reduced the fund’s buying power by 40% since then.

“Right now, the Housing Trust Fund can essentially fund two units of housing a year. Most other larger cities are either taxing folks who are wealthy and can afford it, or they are putting bonds out to pay for low-income housing, and to see none of that on the agenda today is disheartening,” Winkleman said.

More than 40% of Burlingtonians are also cost-burdened by housing, which is defined as spending more than 30% of monthly income just on rent.

The mayor wants to make it clear that the work of housing reform has just begun.

“There’s going to be a follow-up meeting on September 4th, an evening meeting where we’ll have done the work that I was just talking about, and we’ll report back on each of these initiatives,” Weinberger said.

The goal is to deliver housing reform measures to the City Council this fall.

Winkleman is part of a new citizens’ group calling itself the Burlington Tenants Union. It’s given Mayor Weinberger a long list of issues not mentioned at the housing summit that it feels should be addressed.

In some of his public remarks Monday night, the mayor said city officials will analyze and look into that list.

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