Companion bills aimed at curbing Vermont’s rental housing shortage

By David Fidlin | The Center Square

Vermont’s ongoing challenges with demand outpacing supply in the rental housing market are the backdrop for a pair of bills working their way through legislative channels this session.

Senate Bill 210 addresses provisions for health and safety in rental housing developments, while Senate Bill 226 is legislation designed to expand access to rental units.

Members of the House Committee on Appropriations reviewed both bills at a meeting April 19 to examine the financial applications of the legislation, if it is passed into law.

State Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, confirmed not all of the funding is currently accounted for in Vermont’s larger operational budget.

“We need to see how the budget is going to come together, in order to make thoughtful decisions about these bills,” said Hooper, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “The way to keep the process moving … is to make a distinction that it is contingent upon appropriation.”

S.210 would direct the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development agency to create a rental housing registry and establish a new program to see through the provision. Owners of rental housing and short-term rentals would be required to pay an annual $35 fee into the registry.

The legislation would require an upfront state commitment of $20.4 million in ARPA funding to get up and running and subsequently would receive funding through the new revenue stream linked to the annual registry fee.

“This bill is expected to increase state revenues by $840,000 in (fiscal year) 2023, growing to $1.05 million in FY 2024 and up to $1.26 million thereafter,” Patrick Titterton, a financial analyst with the Joint Fiscal Office, wrote in a note.

S.226 would call for a series of policy changes to existing programs within the state with the goal of increasing access to housing stock by making existing homes more affordable to homebuyers, based on wording in the legislation.

“This bill is expected to impact state resources in two ways: appropriations for new or existing programs and fee revenues,” Titterton to wrote in a note attached to S.226. “The total impact of these is $5 million in FY 2022 and $15.4 million in FY 2023 appropriations and $120,000 in increased revenues in FY 2023.”

ARPA funding also comes into play for S.226, based on the proposal. Funding could go toward a myriad of purposes, including razing abandoned homes, building concrete pads that are compliant with U.S. Housing and Urban Development standards and allocating resources to see through common home repairs.

During deliberations at the recent House Committee on Appropriations meeting, state Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, discussed the pair of bills. Stevens is chairman of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs.

“Our feeling has always been (that both bills) tell one story, and that is, ‘How do we increase housing and make it safe and try to ensure that rental housing is going to be monitored?’” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of money coming into the market, and my fear – non-political – is black mold.”

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2 thoughts on “Companion bills aimed at curbing Vermont’s rental housing shortage

  1. If you want more housing at lower costs, then lower taxes and fees and eliminate the regulations that raise costs. Of course the real problem are the democrats that never saw a tax, fee or regulation they didn’t like.

  2. S.210 appears, at least in the official version, to do nothing more than require registration and payment to state coffers of most residential rental units. “This bill proposes to improve rental housing health and safety and expand opportunities for affordable housing.”
    Read that again- merely a proposal…that will “generate” funds for another state program, that will be underfunded and not accomplish much of anything except raise rents for those it purports to help.
    Good plan, Senators sorotkin and balint. Should this work half as well as current programs and statutes, it’ll be a real moneymaker for Vermont’s bloated government but not much else.

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