As I travel the Ward, people express their deep concern about the direction
of City government, usually focused on housing costs and neighborhood integrity.
They tell me:
“When a house is up for sale, speculators can pay more than families because they can subdivide it and pack it with renters.”
“Why can’t UVM house more of their students on-campus?”
“I’ve never noticed so many homeless on our streets and in our public library.
If you elect me to Council, I’ll bear down on the housing problem at every level.
First, there is no way around it; UVM must accommodate its 3000 off-campus undergraduates on its ample campus. There’s plenty of space on the Trinity Campus and judging from their huge new athletic facilities plan, lots of financial resources. If UVM adopted the Berkeley system of non-profit student co-ops, they could cut costs by half for their highly indebted undergrads. Taking university students out of the community means rental prices will deflate for young families and employees seeking to live and work in Burlington.
According to a City study, fully half of the rental housing stock has code violations. We need to enforce decent housing standards for all by increasing the code inspection fee and penalties for property neglect. Owners of property left vacant for years, such as our infamous “Midtown Motel”, must be made to fish or cut bait, returning their structures’ full functionality in our economy.
Hard as it is to believe, the City itself has demolished two hundred owner-occupied homes surrounding our airport due to noise generated by military aircraft. An entire neighborhood where children walked to primary school and adults expected to live among friends into old age has been wiped off the map. The City obtained $57 million in FAA grants, not to build housing, but to level 44 acres. Now 18 new planes, four times louder than what’s now flown, are set to arrive in 2019, subjecting 3,000 homes to noise levels “unsuitable for residential use”. My opponent, the incumbent representative from Ward 6, co-chaired the airport strategic planning committee allowing this housing demolition to take place. By contrast, I’ve worked hard to get an item on the ballot for March, giving voters a voice on whether they want the F-35 or not.
Burlington needs to encourage accessory units that allow seniors to age-in-place while being able to afford their property taxes. Our architectural heritage helps make us distinct, yet older homes are expensive to maintain. I’ll propose a low-interest municipal loan fund, allowing home owners to maintain exteriors of historic buildings. Our non-profit housing agencies work hard and their “Housing First” program, tying permanent shelter with social support services, is great. But waitlists in subsidized housing can run five-to-ten years. Our Housing Trust Fund needs more resources. A proposed state-wide $2 per night hotel lodging fee will help, but local efforts are also needed, perhaps a fee on commercial property transactions.
Burlington could do better to make housing obtainable across the income range if
it stopped handing out massive tax increment subsidies to developers who build, in part, luxury housing: $21.8 million for the Sinex project downtown for the project’s roads; $2 million for storm water control at Cambrian Rise, disguised as a “wild park”.
The other side of housing affordability is pay and jobs. Rethinking the Champlain Parkway to end its extension into our limited industrial area which the City intends to destroy with a 150ft. wide limited-access highway would save taxpayers millions and preserve our jobs and business base. We need a livable wage now for all employees working in the city. Some of our best-known non-profits pay only a minimum wage. Selling Burlington Telecom to a private corporation, a decision in which my opponent, the incumbent councilor from Ward 6, played a pivotal role, fails to protect our economy from corporate manipulation of rates and broadband access. Indeed, within days of the sale announcement, cable rates shot up.
Our city residents are smart and compassionate. Let’s have them weigh in on appointments to boards and commissions through the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies where advisory votes should be held on major development proposals. If we listen to residents and put their interests ahead of real estate speculators and developers, we can hold the line on taxes, house us all with dignity, and achieve a truly livable city.