Housing Plan

Comprehensive Housing Plan

  • Emergency Housing Short and Long term

  • Transitional Housing Short and Long Term

  • Long Term Permanent Housing (Including Home Ownership)

  • Laws and Rule Changes

In order to adequately address this crisis, we must have a strategic plan in place for both the short and long term and it must address emergency, transitional and permanent housing. We need all of these along with zoning and some protections for renters and consumers if we want to walk ourselves out of this crisis.

Emergency Housing: Long Term

  • Expand Shelters with Single Occupancy Rooms/Family Rooms - Example of how to do it correctly is John Graham Shelter. Their model is really successful. 

  • Move Away from Congregant Shelter Settings where everyone is in the same room 

  • 24 Hour Shelters rather than just at night (this will take an assessment of needs to make shelters stay operational all the time)

  • Use the moveable and insulated pallet program for housing that supports quick and ready to use emergency shelter that will keep people safe and give them privacy as well.

  • Improve Supportive structure by increasing funding for the human service supports. These must be fully funded because people can’t navigate the system on their own. 

  • Give Lived Experience Experts agency to make decisions about their lives. I.E. knowing their options and having the opportunity to decide with a case worker which option is healthiest for them even in an emergency setting, for some this would be GA motel program.

  • Creating low and no barrier single room shelters, and better define what low and no barrier means. No barrier shelters currently don’t exist in our state and many low barrier shelters still have high barriers.

  • GA Motel Program: Codify this option when there is no room in shelter or it is not a good setting for the individual’s needs.

  • Remove Limits Or Caps on who can receive services and eliminate rules that dehumanize or infantilize impacted individuals. (where the state has control, for shelters it could be in funding rules for those programs). 

Economic Services Changes Needed- this impacts housing and GA is under Economic Services

  • Create a Central Application For Economic Services, like the college “common app”

  • Study: Look at and overhaul the systemic barriers to the extent we are allowed to in Vermont policy and where we can fill gaps in Vermont that are missing in federal programs. 

  • Create an overall handbook for economic services that is like the landlord tenant handbook written in plain language that outlines clear rules, options, rights and where to go if rights are violated, and common questions and answers that exist..

  • Create a position(s) for all of Economic Services in addition to housing Ombudsman, like the office of health care advocate that would be appointed by someone other than the administration. People could use this source when they are having trouble with economic services. Right now whatever a worker says is law whether or not they are right, and there is nowhere else for them to go.

GA Motel Program: 

  • Use prescriptive language in the BAA to continue the expanded GA program regardless of ERAP status, so that this option remains available.

  • Rule Changes: Comprehensive list of rule changes needed. Three we are highlighting: 1. Definition of Family and partnership. 2. Remove “causing your own homelessness” from the rules entirely, i.e. being blocked from GA program for 30 days for “refusing available shelter”. 3. Periods of ineligibility for any reason. 

  • Codify this program to be an available option when there is no other option or the available options are specifically not appropriate for the individual, they should have agency over their health and mental health. 

  • Eliminate the 84 day rule.

  • Put people in emergency shelter first i.e. GA Motel if they say that they can not tolerate or have a medical reason to not be able tolerate shelter spaces and then give them a 14 days period with simple options for extensions with support to get documentation or longer if needed for things like medical proof.

Transitional Housing

We need a transitional housing program that takes us through the time that it will take to fully build adequate housing throughout the state. We may also need some transitional housing options in the long term plan. This plan has to guarantee that we don’t transition people from motels to the street.

  • Use dorms with shared common spaces and single room occupancy bedrooms that gives occupants more agency over their lives. In our research, churches have a large amount of property that they are not using as well as many abandoned box stores.  If we can turn a Macy’s into a High School, then…

  • Eliminate the rules that dehumanize or infantilize the impacted individuals occupying them.

  • Extend the GA Program until people are transitioned into long term housing using ARPA funds, an immediate bill that does this could help to ensure that security. We can phase people out of this style of housing as long term and permanent housing comes on line.

  • Use winterized trailers and settings for family. 

  • Keep supportive systems in place in a way that is accessible and meets people where they are at.

Long Term Housing

We need long term housing that has options for supportive structures. There needs to be access to meaningful and accessible support for people who want them. Those supports have to be voluntary. Being housed can not be conditional on accepting services, we need options for many that provide dignity and security. 

  • Develop a plan to create more housing using ARPA funds by a date certain that shows the timeline and areas where the housing is built. 

  • Have it be built in mixed income settings and according to need, and rise above need to keep up with growth. Set in motion a way to assess as needs change and trigger a start the process before the state gets behind.  

  • Have benchmarks of the amount needed to be built and accountability placed in. 

  • We know that we need a minimum of 2000 homes online for the population experiencing homelessness, this is not the total, it is the minimum.

  •  Additional Low Income Housing, built to meet current need and a bit beyond. 

  • Create an actionable study, meaning one that is tied to action from findings. This study should ask, how much housing is needed for all income levels; Low, Middle, and Higher. 

  • Equitably create this housing in communities small and large, rural and urban. Create a plan for each community that defines how people will be transitioned into permanent housing and the timeline. Create accountability measures as well.

  • Create a viable path to home ownership for Vermonters in low and middle income brackets including cooperative housing models.

In order to do this, it we must create a comprehensive building plan: This can include:

  • 4 season tiny homes, mixed income so that we are cautious not to create poor farms. *We have studied this option, and we have a sense of how many can be built in specific periods of time.

  • Buy up motels that are willing to create studio and one bedroom apartments that have a community space and supportive housing (for some this would be a transitional step and some it would be long term if they need those supports.)

  • Convert older buildings into mixed income for larger multi unit homes, low income, middle income. Affordable units should be first priority in buildings with limited numbers of apartments. 

  • Tie subsidies of material cost for new builds to controlling costs.

  • Create a comprehensive funding stream for accessory dwellings at ⅓ the square footage of the primary residence requirements that it they be up to code and the owner is willing to rent long term and not as a short term rental. Use robust grants that are income sensitive so that low income residents have this option as well which will limit foreclosures. This is the most rapid available long term rental option because it does not require a zoning change. It may be a good place to put some arpa funds in the near term. These can not just be available though to long term homeowners.

  • Create funding sources in Vermont for people who can inherit family homes, but would not be able to keep up with expenses related to owning the home. This is a gap and causes both homelessness and economic hardship, putting a greater strain on the market and it is lost opportunity to keep people housed

  • Create expanded funding for people to stay in their current homes and address necessary repairs. The income limits for that type of support is not high enough commensurate with cost.

With this must come Laws And Rule Changes: 

  •  Amend Act 250 and other zoning restrictions only for the purpose of permanently affordable housing. 

  • Just Cause Eviction

  • Zoning: very simple for tiny houses and look over the permitting process. Look at zoning in places traditionally zoned for business, to make it easy to transition.

  • Make zoning rules more uniform across the state for the purpose of zoning more permanently affordable housing, to limit nimbyism and create more consistency and geographic equity.

  • Create regulations and expectations for student housing that eliminates residents competing with students and an inflated rental market. (This is a major problem we know in Burlington and Addison County currently)

  • Identify where housing is needed, build to need and then create measures to do the same in the future so that we don’t get behind again. There will be some areas where state funding will be required due to federal rules that may impact where ARPA is used. 

We also must guarantee rental protections and guidelines:

  • Create some rent control measures that prevent rents from inflating in the specific manor they already have. Look to measures already applied to state and federally funded affordable housing. You have to justify increases in those settings and we need to apply similar principles.

  • Pass s.210 to give people safety and health in their homes.

  • Create a Housing Ombudsman Office, with robust staffing per county and overall state staff that people can go to if needed.

  • Make clear rules around housing assistance that allows low income renters to understand their rights and work with their local housing ombudsman to not be held liable for leaving untenable housing situations, losing vouchers and so on. 

  • Amend landlord tenant law to be clear and to prevent people from being exited from specialty supportive housing directly to the street. 

  • Regulate short term rental market that incentivises long term rentals over short term. This has been a huge problem in the rental market. 

  • First pass the Just Cause Eviction in Burlington and this plan should implement it across the state as well.

There are Systemic Changes Needed To Create a Usable System - and this is just a short list. 

  • Change rules for GA Motel, emergency shelter 

  • Direct the Human Rights Commission to include unhoused, people with mental illness and substance use disorder. This includes legislative directive and appropriation. 

  • Create housing for people who do not have “landlord references” within orgs that accept state funding, tie that funding to a certain number of people to move from homelessness to long term housing.

  • Create housing available to folks with violent Criminal Records, communities are safer if people are contained in housing.

Housing Bill Of Rights

  • Create a housing bill of rights based on the housing first model and to  use the loss of housing as a way to punish people. This should be combined with the homelessness bill of rights.