Housing Letter to Lawmakers

March 8, 2022

To: Governor Phil Scott

Vermont State Senate

Vermont House of Representatives

Dear Lawmakers,

We know you are already aware of an impending eviction of two dozen families here in Winooski at a multi-unit

property at 300 Main Street. The property owner is preparing to evict all tenants of 24 apartments as of July 1 to

accommodate renovations; once renovations are complete, the landlord intends to convert this apartment

complex to market rate units, unaffordable to most Winooski residents.

Finding affordable housing in Winooski is challenging under the best of circumstances, and in particular for our

Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) neighbors. The lack of access to homeownership and stable housing

for BIPOC is no accident. In the United States policies such as exclusionary zoning, discriminatory lending and real

estate practices and other tools of systemic racism prevent BIPOC from accessing the same housing opportunities

as white community members. Vermont hasn’t been immune: white Vermonters are almost three times more

likely to be homeowners than Black ones. The result is fewer BIPOC households have an opportunity to experience

the security that safe and stable housing brings.

Most of the families residing at 300 Main Street are low income; the majority are BIPOC and refugee families. It

will likely be impossible for these economically disadvantaged, multigenerational families to find new housing in

the next four months, and even more impossible to find housing that is large enough to meet their needs.

If these families are forced to leave their homes, many won’t be able to stay in Winooski. The 29 school-age

children who currently call 300 Main Street home won’t be able to continue attending Winooski schools. This

displacement will tear these families away from their friends and neighbors, the school that supports them, stores

and services they know, and accessible public transportation.

Throughout Vermont, we are experiencing a housing crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. With

vacancy rates already at an unhealthy low, and an influx of out of state and investor home purchases, housing

prices and rents are soaring. In Winooski, our public housing authority is finding that families who receive a

section 8 voucher for housing cannot find units for rent within the price and size limits for the voucher. The lack of

available, affordable housing is especially stark for large, multi-generational families; for those families who are

over the benefits cliff, finding naturally occurring affordable housing is nearly impossible.

Vermont considers itself a welcoming place for refugees, but we need to do more than just open our arms. We

need to make sure our new residents have access to safe, affordable housing that allows them to live with dignity.

Refugee service providers have long struggled to find adequate housing; many refugee families are multi-

generational, and 3, 4- and 5-bedroom units are necessary to safely house them. In the current market, it is

challenging to find even 2-bedroom units.

While the market may show that smaller units are in demand, our housing authorities show that families waiting

for larger units are on wait lists twice as long. Large units are developed primarily by non-profit housing

organizations reliant on government grants, tax credits and private donations to make the projects financially

viable, and this housing is not being built nearly fast enough to keep up with demand. State regulations also

restrict the use of living rooms as bedrooms, further challenging the ability of larger families to find homes in our

existing housing stock.

We know many of you share our commitment to addressing Vermont’s housing crisis. But investments in housing

to meet this crisis must be coupled with requirements to ensure that mass displacements like the one underway in

Winooski do not happen. Residents have little recourse when private landlords determine that economic

conditions favor displacement and increasing rents.

If private developers are going to be the recipients of substantial public funds, then we should ensure that

adequate, permanent safeguards are in place to prevent displacement of residents once the project is built and

subsidies or tax credits expire. The state program that provides rehab money to landlords to house displaced,

homeless people, should also qualify refugees in that group to encourage more landlords to rent to New American


While the situation at 300 Main Street is tragic, we know it is not unique. Time and again, we have seen landlords

renovate units and raise rents, displacing economically disadvantaged families. This practice disproportionately

affects members of the BIPOC community and oftentimes is rooted in racism.

Vermont needs a strategy to protect and preserve naturally-occurring affordable housing in communities.

Vermont needs requirements to ensure that if relocation is necessary to perform renovations, tenants are

provided with adequate notice, and assistance with relocation. This assistance should include identification of

alternative housing, resources for moving expenses, and temporary assistance with covering increased rents.

If Vermont wants to commit to welcoming refugees and to making progress towards greater equity, we must

invest in housing that is safe and affordable for families of all sizes. The open market is not going to support the

creation of housing that meets the needs of the families we want to welcome. Vermont must make a substantial

public investment in the creation of larger, affordable housing.

Our organizations are collectively working together to support the affected residents of 300 Main Street. We are

requesting your immediate assistance to help target state housing policy and resources to better meet the needs

of our community, and in particular, the families facing displacement, in order to prevent the housing crisis from

doing further harm to the most vulnerable in Winooski.


Mayor Kristine Lott, City of Winooski

Tori Cleiland, Board Chair, Winooski School District

Deac Decarreau, Executive Director, Winooski Housing Authority

Amila Merdznovic, Executive Director, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Jacob Bogre, Executive Director, AALV

Paul Dragon, Executive Director, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity

Michael Monte, CEO, Champlain Housing Trust

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