Editor’s note: Roll Call is published by the Ethan Allen Institute.
S.210, an act related to rental housing health and safety and affordable housing, passed in the State Senate on February 10, 2022, by a vote of 20-9.
The purpose of the bill is to create a statewide registry of rental properties, a program for enlarging Vermont’s rental market and a program for increasing the homeownership rate.
First, S.210 allocates $400,000 of federal ARPA funds to pay 5 full-time housing inspectors and 2 administrators, who will begin building a registry of Vermont rental properties in 2022. From 2023 onward, the salaries of these 7 government workers would be funded by an “annual registration fee of $35 per rental unit” ($200/unit if late). Vermont’s JFO estimates these fees could raise over $1 million annually by 2024. State inspectors would be obligated to complete rental housing inspections if they receive complaints about a property. Landlords can only rent housing if it has been registered and may not rent units that fail inspection.
Second, S.210 creates a rental housing investment program and a homeownership loan fund. Under the “Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program” Vermont would “award funding to statewide or regional nonprofit housing organizations to provide competitive grants and forgivable loans to private landlords.” Landlords can receive $30,000/unit to fix-up/weatherize unrentable housing. Second, the “Vermont Homeownership Revolving Loan Fund” would award $50,000 in no-interest loans to first-time home buyers. Under both programs, individuals identifying as “Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Color” would be prioritized. Funding sources are not listed.
Analysis: Those voting YES believe S.210 will increase the quantity, affordability and safety of Vermont’s rental housing market. A statewide registry would allow legislators to know where current rental housing is located, so they can spend federal ARPA dollars more efficiently. S.210 advocates hope a strong enforcement system will lessen safety problems with rental properties.
Those voting NO were against the rental registry portion of the bill, rather than the homeownership and investment portions. They believe increasing housing regulations will reduce Vermont’s housing supply, raise rent on properties, shrink Vermont’s economically significant tourism industry, and reduce the $15 million Vermont receives in taxes from short-term rentals. S.210 represents a rejection of a more gradual approach, of updating the current system of local safety inspections. This new system gives 80,000 landlords extra paperwork, expands state bureaucracy, and is highly intrusive. This bill is less about safety and more about Vermont taking the first step toward control of rental property.
As Recorded in the Senate Journal, Thursday, February 10, 2022: “Was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 20, Nays 9.” (Read the Journal, p. 156).
HOW THEY VOTED
Becca Balint (D-Windham) – YES
Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden) – YES
Joseph Benning (R-Caledonia) – NO
Christopher Bray (D-Addison) – YES
Randy Brock (R-Franklin) – NO
Brian Campion (D-Bennington) – YES
Thomas Chittenden (D-Chittenden) – YES
Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor) – YES
Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) – NO
Ann Cummings (D-Washington) – YES
Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) – YES
Cheryl Hooker (D-Rutland) – YES
Russ Ingalls (R-Essex-Orleans) – NO
M. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) – YES
Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden) – YES
Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) – YES
Richard Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle) – NO
Richard McCormack (D-Windsor) – YES
Alice Nitka (D-Windsor District) – YES
Corey Parent (R-Franklin) – NO
Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) – YES
Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) – YES
Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) – YES
Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) – YES
Richard Sears (D-Bennington) – YES
Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) – YES
Robert Starr (D-Essex-Orleans) – NO
Joshua Terenzini (R-Rutland) – NO
Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) – NO
Jeanette White (D-Windham) – YES