New bill would prioritize land and home ownership by skin color, other identities

Lawmakers in the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs on Tuesday got a first look at a bill that would prioritize opportunities for land and home ownership based primarily on an individual’s skin color.

H.273 aims to foster racial and social equity in land access and property ownership by creating grant programs, financial education, and other investments “targeted to Vermonters who have historically suffered from discrimination and who have not had equal access to public or private economic benefits due to race, ethnicity, sex, geography, language preference, immigrant or citizen status, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or disability status.”

In addition to prioritizing land ownership by skin color and other mostly fixed personal characteristics, the bill’s language says the state “must engage in a deep process of truth and reconciliation, guided by the persons who have been most impacted, to address the underlying wounds of colonization and slavery.”

Lou Varricchio/TNR

WHITES NEED NOT APPLY: If H.273 becomes law, about $10 million dollars in Vermont taxpayer money would go to blacks, indigenous and other people of color to help them financially qualify to purchase homes and land.

H.273 proposes creation of the Vermont Land Access and Opportunity Board to oversee the distribution of $10 million in taxpayer money to ensure more land and homes go to people based on race and identity.

The bill has 18 sponsors, including lead sponsor Rep. Brian Cina, P/D-Burlington.

“We must acknowledge and address wealth disparity by creating new opportunities for individual and collective land access and property ownership for Vermonters who have historically suffered from discrimination by ensuring equal access to owning property, woodlands, and farmland in every town across the State of Vermont,” Cina recently wrote on his Facebook page.

Beverly Little Thunder, a Lakota elder, was among four witnesses to address the committee on Tuesday.

“The foundation of our current economic system was built on land that was taken from Abenaki and other indigenous persons,” she said. “The structures of our economic systems were constructed with the labor of enslaved persons. The legacy of settler colonialism and chattel slavery has been a systematic racism and discrimination embedded into many aspects of our modern way of life on this land.”

Thunder said Vermont needs to create a new system that “must engage in the just transition to an economic system that systematically undoes racism instead of re-enforcing it.”

She talked some about how this money might help BIPOC-only prospective homeowners.

“This would provide assistance in coming up with down payments, with access to land, with purchasing, having technical advice, helping to explain the process that needs to be taken,” she said. “And hopefully this land will be held in trusts so that it will continue to be held for BIPOC people who move here.”

Chelsea Gazillo, the New England policy manager for the American Farmland Trust, spoke to the committee as well.

“H.273 is a powerful opportunity to help meaningful change the disparities and help access to resources that build wealth and power such as home ownership and land tenure,” Gazillo said.

Kenya Lazuli, the director of Everytown Vermont, spoke about how this bill will shift resources to people of color.

“This bill is created for and by BIPOC and passing a bill like that will shift a paradigm, passing a bill that places huge dollar amounts in the hands of an all BIPOC committee to decide what to do with it — that’s a paradigm shift,” she said.

Steffen Gillom, President of the NAACP for Windham County, told the committee how a BIPOC family had wanted to move to Vermont but they could not afford a home.

“I watched them attempt and attempt again to purchase land or to purchase a home on some land big and small, and I watched as their excitement happened when they were finally able to rent something,” he said. ” … I watched as they had a sudden realization that they would not be able to secure their dreams in Vermont to steward lands due to the barriers to access the place in front of them.”

Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, asked how this bill, even with the best of intentions, is going to make a tangible impact on agriculture.

“We have a very small number of farmers who are BIPOC and we are losing dairy farms anyway,” he said.

Gillom responded that this effort is part of a “restoring process.” He said, “I think that having this conversation right now, and the way that we are having it, is historical and part of that restoring process.”

Levar Cole, a former African-American House candidate in the 2020 primary elections, has written on why this bill is bad policy.

“We don’t need more race-based government programs to “empower minority land ownership” by providing money that will obscure the actual and extremely high costs of land ownership in Vermont,” he wrote back in February.

The committee’s Tuesday hearing can be viewed here.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Flickr/ and Lou Varricchio/TNR

32 thoughts on “New bill would prioritize land and home ownership by skin color, other identities

  1. $10,000,000 in taxpayer funds to be spent annually at the direction of an UNELECTED board?? I wouldn’t expect this to pass Supreme Court scrutiny….

  2. More brilliant racist thinking coming from Mount Stupid. Why don’t they just rule on separate water fountains, bathrooms and back of the bus seats and get that whole Jim Crow thing going again? After all, it was the democrats who fashioned all those great laws right after the civil war. The only difference now is that they want the white people to suffer those injustices for something we had nothing to do with. Of course it does help them with their voting popularity. Whenever you give something for free or give favoritism you will be remembered and voted for. Oh, and never mind the young Vermonters who can’t afford land or a home. I guess they haven’t suffered enough yet and according to our legislators they are of the wrong color.

    • Back in the 1990s I founded a fair housing organization in Washington State that addressed housing discrimination, which was rampant, esp. toward local Indigenous families. After operating on an all-volunteer basis, we realized we were getting nowhere without money, so we applied for and won our first HUD grant of $400,000, hired an executive director. This was followed by renewed grants and the organization is now a functioning part of the community.
      We worked with landlords and the real estate industry and gave people who felt they had been discriminated against in housing a place to file their complaint, which then would go to investigation and restitution. The ruling law was the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, which: ” prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of: …” race, skin color, national origin, among other protected classes.
      So this newest move by Vermont bothers me. prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of:
      So this newest gesture by Vermont bothers me. This is out-and-out reverse discrimination that aims, justifiably, to right past wrongs but in a wrongheaded way.
      Who are these legislators? Does this new Legislature not know about the federal Fair Housing laws? Is this true reparations or window-dressing to help relieve white liberals of their guilt complex? And to tack it onto a law exempting feminine products from sales tax is a rather disingenuous attempt to do just that – why not pit one group of beneficiaries against another group of beneficiaries? This has the makings of a huge backlash and stokes the fires of the culture war that is going on right now in little ol’ Vermont.
      I am old enough to know when the term “white skin privilege” was coined. In the 1970s the antiwar movement and the so-called “left” was the territory of trust-fund babies and college students who were able to avoid the gut-wrenching experience of hard physical labor and who viewed the working class as chumps and stooges for the bosses. These people were terrified of the “redneck” working class and they still are. Not living that life themselves, the coiners of “white skin privilege” ignored that in the lower rungs of society there is no such thing… you are treated badly, period. This was true even during the shameful decades of racial segregation. When the war wounded came back from Vietnam they were vilified, even though the majority had been drafted – something the college-educated successfully avoided – to do unthinkable things that still haunt them in the form of PTSD, addiction, despair, shame and suicide. I have heard more than one Vietnam vet say, “The army made a bad man of me.”
      So this is where the backlash comes from. This is where Trump supporters get their strength from.
      Am I one? I think my above record says I am not. I am just an IMPARTIAL observer – and independent, if you will.
      This bill ignores the realities of living in Vermont for people of any race, skin color, ethnic origin. Vermont has deep problems that will not be solved by adding more struggle. If individuals of any race, skin color, ethnic origin can’t buy or rent because the cost of acquiring property is criminally out of sight, well, join the club! I personally know of a decent 4-acre parcel in Middlebury on the edge of farmland –with a modest home — that sold in 2019 for $60,000 (on the upper edge of affordability then) and is now estimated with a value of over $300,000 by Zillow, based entirely on supply and demand that is off the charts during this real estate boom. And that price is considered cheap. That is nothing but highway robbery, and no amount of financial charity will correct this phenomenon. It is the territory of the top 10 percent.
      I rest my case. Vermont has much deeper problems that cut across all race, color, national origin and ethnic divides.
      This entire bill is nothing but another way for liberals to bury their heads in the sand while claiming the moral high ground.

    • If you’re attempting to redefine by churching Marxist ideology and Socialism as mere Employee-Owned Businesses, ya came to the wrong place. “Left is not left but a palatable version of capitalistic values which includes shoving [???] the uglier aspects of capitalism, which is the supremacy of property ownership…under the rug”, really…really?!


      I for one do not buy glib dismissal of totalitarian slavery as “just another way of describing the pooling of resources, which is done in every country in the world – even here.” …and further as a Live-Free-Or-Die VT lover of liberty find even the premise deeply offensive, as evidenced by the 100 million – and counting – who have died under a brutal and hostile takeover of their societies who awakened to find selves under a boot with a gun barrel in their face.

      Oooh…I get it…why Marxist dictatorships are simply collectives of “workers owning the means of production and pooling resources”. Uh huh.

      Pants On Fire Alert: No…the Marxist government own the means of production while the “workers” are mere serfs aka slaves. And the working class *is* a monolithic entity which then merely exists to serve the heirarchy of apparatchicks, commissars and of course myriad bureaucrats and party loyalists who form a ruling elite enslaving the masses, conscripting a military which serves as enforcement and killing all who reject the totalitarian overlords.

      As an avid Trump-hater must say found oh-so ignorant comment “So this is where the backlash comes from. This is where Trump supporters get their strength from.” a bit rich.

      Go back to your silly sinecure masquerading as a freelance journalist and yet another Trump-Deranged Vtdigger left-wing hack posing as an “independent” lol.

  3. Nothing better to do in Montpelier? A bill like this will only serve to increase whatever divide which currently exists.

  4. This would not survive a SCOTUS challenge as it violates Civil Rights Act by discriminating according to race. A state cannot make ‘reparations’ by unilaterally redirecting allocated funds according to a vague ill-defined belief concept that is widely disputed. Personally do not believe states can violate constitutionally protected status of all races, gender or religious orientation.
    Fair Housing Act
    emphasis added
    The Fair Housing Act of 1968 ***prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex.*** Intended as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bill was the subject of a contentious debate in the Senate, but was passed quickly by the House of Representatives in the days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fair Housing Act stands as the final great legislative achievement of the civil rights era.

  5. If Cina has his fingers in it, it will undoubtedly be a quagmire of regulation and bureaucracy. Little of the 10 million will reach the intended “victim” and few will qualify thru the socialist red-tape.
    Has anyone considered that these bills, the ones that enact boards, whose members are compensated- is a perfect way to pay back political favors and donors? The progressive party has followed the Democrat playbook- and made it even more dangerous and costly to Vermont taxpayers.

  6. So if we can “choose” our gender, can I “choose” to be Black or Indian to gain these wonderful racist incentives? Come to think of it, I don’t want to be 58 anymore, can I be 28…and not so white?

  7. This is obviously unconstitutional. But that won’t matter. The U.S. Constitution has be violated more times than Linda Lovelace by the U.S. Supreme Court itself!

  8. I am so proud to be a Vermonter.
    I cannot wait what UNCONSTITUTIONAL GARBAGE will come next out of MontiPythonLooneyville.

    Are the VT Media supporting this claptrap in a knee-jerk manner?
    Collective this, Socialist that.
    The words they use are plagiarized from Karl Marx’s manifesto.

    • This likely will lead to more subsidized CSAs, on a few acres, for the disadvantaged, i.e., eventually everyone.

      A return to inefficient, small-scale, subsistence farming for many thousands.

      Instead, Vermont needs to set up large, modern greenhouses for growing fruits and vegetables and flowers, big, high-quality, cash crops that can be exported to other states, as the Netherlands does by shipping its produce all over Europe; big business, big money.

      That would be the smart way, but that likely will never happen in Vermont.

    • Back to my other point: the so-called “left” is not left at all, just a palatable version of capitalistic values, which includes shoving the uglier aspects of capitalism, which is the supremacy of property ownership, under the rug. By “capitalistic” I am not talking about the farmers, the businesses, the sole proprietors who keep the wheels turning with honest labor and lawful practices. They exist everywhere in the world, even in communist countries (which, by the way we do enjoy relations with. Communist Vietnam, who soundly defeated us, but who continues to trade with us and goes its own quiet way, is an example). And socialism is just another way of describing the pooling of resources, which also is done every day in every country in the world, even here. And employee ownership of companies, which is common place here, is as “socialistic” as you can get! The workers own the means of production, which is the textbook, Marxist, definition of communist. But as I said, liberals-progressive dump the working class into the “basket of deplorables” as if the working class is a monolithic entity, which it absolutely is not.
      The so-called “left” is not a true left, but a mishmash of well-meaning people who are content to label reality to pursue certain ideals without regard to the facts.
      It is worth noting that eugenics was the darling of progressives from Teddy Roosevelt to Helen Keller to Dorothy Canfield Fisher and right down into our local communities, who gladly ratted on anyone who lived unconventional lives and/or did not conform to the norm of church-going property owners … and that included the Indigenous folks among us as well as French Canadians (because no one could understand what they were saying, therefore they must be mentally defective – I kid you not).
      That is exactly what makes this bill totally disingenuous. The so-called “left” hates these people unless they agree to become charity cases for liberal “generosity.” Don’t you think these new property owners — if they ever actually “qualify” for this program — will be taxed like everybody else???
      Yes, erase racist discriminatory practices so they can succeed. It has been done in the past, Vermont towns have always accepted Black tradesmen and farmers, and 10 Black Woodstock men signed on with the Massachusetts 54th to fight for the Union. There were many others.
      Southern Blacks were promised 40 acres and a mule. Whether that ever materialized, I don’t know. I suspect it did not, as promised. Then the KKK and Jim Crow laws stepped in to keep Black freedmen in their place.
      We don’t have that here, and never did. The record is clear. The Vermont Constitution called for the manumission of enslaved Blacks (and there were Indigenous enslaved also, by the way – it is called indentured servitude) when they reached the age of majority. Whether that meant the mothers could take their children with them into freedom is another question.
      But let’s not turn the BIPOC community into panhandlers. Let us redress the imbalance by the willing cooperation of the mortgage companies and the real estate industry so that free enterprise can function the way it is supposed to.

  9. “Steffen Gillom, President of the NAACP for Windham County, told the committee how a BIPOC family had wanted to move to Vermont but they could not afford a home.”

    Hey, Steffen, a rapidly growing number of Vermonters are finding it difficult, even increasingly impossible to afford to live here.

    This has nothing to do with race, color, creed… It is the fault of an out-of-control tax and spend government.

    Get a clue, dude.

    • Bingo!

      It’s amazing how the people who are creating the barriers for anyone to own anything in Vermont with policy are the same people saying that the barriers are race-related.

      I’m not sure where they all grew up but I consider that to be RACISM.


  10. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

  11. This bill sounds racist to me. If you’re white and have the income to afford the property that’s too bad, for you are the wrong color. Sorry
    Where do these fools come from??????????????????

    • I have it all figured out. I will leave the UNITED STATES, go to MEXICO, and then sneak over the border and then claim to be an illegal, and get FREE stuff.

      OR, pretend I am black, even tho my skin is white and I am a redhead. I mean come oh if Congressman Warren can claim to be INDIAN(even tho her parents said she’s not ) why can’t I claim to be black and get all these so-called entitlements that the democrats are giving out. It sounds fair to me right???

      OR, another way is to move out of state for a month then write to Gov SCOTT and say I will come to Vermont and work remotely and get the $10,000 he was offering to get more people to move to Vermont.

      Does anyone have better ideas?

    • I have a little N.A. DNA for proof. Maybe I can get in on this taxpayer funded scam. What a bunch of fools we have in Mount Plot.

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