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Analysis: Weinberger's New Plan To Alleviate Burlington's Housing Issues

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Taylor Dobbs
/
VPR/file
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's new plan to alleviate limited and expensive housing in Burlington includes building 1,500 units to help draw college students out of the historic downtown area.

On Monday, the Burlington City Council began discussion of a massive plan to address what some people call the housing crisis in Burlington. Issues include figuring out how to house Burlington's homeless population, dealing with the large number of local college students who flood the market and addressing the aging housing stock and lack of affordable rental properties for families and non-students.

Alicia Freese, who has been covering the issue for Seven Days, joined Vermont Edition to talk about the plan and how Burlington citizens are reacting.

Freese says that one of the points in Mayor Weinberger’s plan includes building 1,500 units, in collaboration with local colleges, to help draw the 3,000 students who live in downtown Burlington out of historic areas. Freese says some were critical of the idea, arguing that all students should be housed in dorms on campus.

The plan also mentions building a low barrier warming shelter, says Freese. “So this is a place during the cold weather where people who have been drinking or have been using drugs could come in. They won’t be able to use drugs on the premises,” she explains. The plan also puts emphasis on prioritizing the most vulnerable homeless population and emphasizing a model used in communities nationwide known as "housing first." This approach focuses on finding permanent housing solutions for homeless people that are not tied to compliance with mental health counseling, job training or other services. Freese says it is unclear what the city’s role in the housing process would be.

Other parts of the plan include lowering costs for developers to create more affordable housing for lower- to middle-class families and non-students, and a change to the inclusionary housing ordinance, which essentially requires developers to set aside a certain number of units for low-income housing in any new building.

Freese says that many residents are worried about the new housing proposal and how it will impact the city, but that she thinks the City Council is on board with the plan.

According to the Burlington Free Press, the All Wards Neighborhood Planning Assembly has a public information meeting scheduled for May 7 at the Contois Auditorium at Burlington’s City Hall. The City Council will vote on the plan sometime after that.

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