Today Vermont legislators from the House and Senate announced legislation predicted to raise as much as $10 million per year to support affordable housing in Vermont and reduce homelessness. For the price of a cup of coffee, Vermonters will gain better access to affordable and workforce housing including rental assistance and housing related services. H.217 and its Senate companion bill have over 35 sponsors.
The bills propose a $2 per night Occupancy Fee on hotel, motel and AirBnB guests, which will fund a newly created Workforce and Supportive Housing Fund. The fund will be managed by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Following recommendations from the legislatively funded “Roadmap to End Homelessness” report, the revenue will be invested in four areas including creation of affordable and workforce housing, housing infrastructure costs, housing-related assistance and supportive services.
The Housing for All coalition is comprised of over 35 organizations who all share the common goal of ending homelessness and providing safe, stable and affordable housing to all Vermonters. Coalition members are quick to stress that this fee will be paid by mostly out-of-state tourists. “We know from a recent impact study that 93% of Vermont’s overnight guests are from out of state – so the majority of the expense will not be borne by Vermonters, and it will make a huge impact on affordable housing in Vermont,” said Erhard Mahnke, Coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.
The housing crisis is spread far and wide amongst Vermonters in need. The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence helped lead the coalition efforts this year. Says Kara Casey, Economic Justice and Housing Specialist, “The Network strongly supports these bills because victims of domestic and sexual violence are staying longer in our shelters than ever before, simply due to the fact that they have no affordable place to go.”
Vermont Interfaith Action Board President and priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Barre, Rev. Earl Kooperkamp emphasized that ending homelessness is a priority for VIA as well, “This is the answer to the question of affordability raised by our Governor in his budget address this year. We need a fund to generate money for housing in Vermont. To provide shelter for our neighbors who currently face housing insecurity; to enable our children in these households to grow up in homes where there is less stress, less illness, less violence and everyone is healthier, happier and more productive. The choice is ours to be made. Will we help our neighbors?”
The bills’ proposed investments in safe, stable and affordable housing and public infrastructure will:
• Save state money in the Human Services budget by reducing the costs of homelessness,
• Create more housing that working Vermonters and those living on fixed incomes can afford,
• Create housing for hospitality industry workers closer to where they work,
• Create and retain decent paying jobs in the construction trades,
• Boost local economies by lifting resident earnings and local tax revenue, and
• Provide housing for the elderly, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable Vermonters.