The latest solution to Vermont’s housing crisis? Paying landlords to rent to people

By Ciara McEneany | Community News Service

Officials hope a new state fund can sway landlords to rent to people who might otherwise lack housing.

The Vermont State Housing Authority launched the Landlord Relief Program last week with help from the state Department for Children and Families. Landlords who apply can receive funding — up to $10,000 per unit — to hold units for up to two months while they work with providers that offer housing vouchers. Recipients can also use the funds for any necessary work to bring units up to health and safety codes.

The program originated from research by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency into the feasibility of a statewide fund to make sure landlords were being supported while also incentivizing them to expand the number of rental units in the state, according to Lily Sojourner, community services program manager with the Department for Children and Families’ Office of Economic Opportunity.

“We had some focus groups with landlords and housing providers to see what their key costs were, what they needed and what successful elements of programs similar to this one in other states looked like,” Sojourner said. “And so, for the past six months we’ve been really working on building the policies and procedures needed while also bringing information to stakeholders.”

The application process looks at how affordable a landlord’s units are or would be.

“There is no income eligibility criteria for those who apply, but there is an affordability criterion,” said Tyler Maas, program director at the Vermont State Housing Authority. “So, the unit must be affordable. The rent must be of gross rent — a combination of the contract rent plus the utility allowance — and must be affordable at 80% of area median income, which is 30% of one’s salary.”

Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC Community Action

Potential tenants do not need to be screened for income level because their eligibility is based on them already benefiting from a state assistance program.

The program aims to deal with the state’s deficit in rental housing, especially for those who are in higher need of housing, said Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC Community Action, a social services agency serving Bennington and Rutland.

“There’s no income verification — it is based on the tenant already receiving some rental assistance or subsidy in a program. So, it’ll increase the number of units now being provided and made available to this group of Vermonters that often struggle with finding a landlord that’s willing to rent to them,” said Donahue.

By giving landlords a financial safety net, Sojourner said, the program alleviates real or perceived risks to renting to prospective tenants who have housing subsidies or are homeless.

“We feel that this program lets the landlord know that we hear them and their concerns. We want them to go into these relationships in a positive way, feeling like they can build a strong relationship with a tenant,” said Sojourner. “Most of the time it is a successful tenancy, but if something happens, we are here to support landlords and kind of relieve a little bit of that pressure and burden.”

Donahue believes the program will help mitigate the housing crisis enveloping Vermont and put those in need of housing in a stable environment.

“This program is one of the potential answers to getting homeless folks transitioned into a more sustainable, permanent home versus a motel room, which is the version which we’re experiencing now,” said Donahue. “There are a lot of substandard apartments out there, unfortunately. And people are currently living in substandard conditions that we can’t condone.”

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Public domain

10 thoughts on “The latest solution to Vermont’s housing crisis? Paying landlords to rent to people

  1. Haven’t we already been doing this for years now both with the federal section 8 program and the state program that provides the luxury and privacy of a hotel room to individuals who would never be rented accommodations on their own merit?

  2. Landlords in VT lose legal control of their rental property and increasing numbers of organized grifting tenants know they can get a year’s free rent while the landlord is forced to go to court to evict them for failure to pay rent or for destroying the property. In my own experience with many years as a landlord, I have watched in my locality how “affordable” rentals have become unavailable directly as a result of criminally abusive tenants who know that they have legal control over the rental property as contracted tenants. The selfish few have ruined rental options for the many legitimately and worthy needy with the help of state rental regs that are far too permissive with enforcement of landlord’s property rights. Until state rental laws are changed so landlords regain legal control of the eviction process in VT there is no incentive for willing landlords to take the high financial risk of supporting “affordable” rentals or any rentals. Just one more way the VT legislature has hobbled housing availability in the state while anvoiding accountability for the consequences of their own foolish policies.

    • You hit the nail on the head. These do gooders just can’t get it thru their heads. Several Property owns refuse to rent out the other side of their duplexes due to the horror stories they’ve seen firsthand of trying to evict tenants in this state. I started a group of landlords that is up to 350 members to help educate one another so we put a stop to the state approved landlord abuse. I have been a landlord for 36 years now and very connected in the landlord community.
      These Do Gooders are just wasting our hard-earned tax dollars on more failed pipe dreams.
      The Eviction Laws must be overhauled to address the housing shortage and to reduce housing cost.

  3. I’m surprised the fools under the golden dome didn’t follow commiefornias solution to housing shortage. Their idea is to give tax breaks/payments to house holds that wish to turn garages or unused house area’s into rentals. Problem is 99% of the applicants paper work is tied up in the maze of regulation the state has previously enacted to restrict growth.. caught in their own conundrum..

  4. In the “old days” vermont had “poor farms” not necessarily farms but a home where many lived and went to work on farms……for their keep and a little money to save to get own place……..
    this is unreal……

  5. oh my so trickle down from fed level…..create the problem; then use taxpayer hard earned money to fix it (which never works either)
    very very glad I left…….wish you all the best

  6. I think that it’s very interesting to see the fallout of what they’ve created.
    Yes we predicted this and Yes, here we are to say “We Told Ya So!!”

    They’ve taxed the state to the degree that people can’t afford to live there unless they are rich outta staters.
    And yet, everyone was saying that this would happen for some 50+ years now– and here it is.

    The fact of the matter is that many people simply cannot afford to live in New England anymore.
    THIS is what they’ve done.
    So take what is left of your money and your kids and move down South.
    I sure know lots that have and they report that they love the place and wish they left decades ago.
    I hate to say this, but think of what it’s costing us to live up here now.
    Sure it’s nice, it’s home, but take a look at what it costs and ask yourself it it’s really worth it.
    We have but one life.

    Sadly, the only way a whole lot of these people in control are going to learn is when they are trying to run a state with nothing but elites that don’t want to do anything but have fun- good luck with that.
    Let them deal with the mess they made. Why should you? You didn’t vote for it.
    Now vote with your feet.

  7. Can you see how their first solution to everything is not fixing the problem, but giving kickbacks to others with the taxpayer’s money?

    This is the model they use for solving ALL of Vermonters problems.

    This is why nothing gets solved and working Vermonters are broke and can’t get ahead.

    Remember how they were Giving $10k for people to move into our state?

    Shine the light on the stupidity….

  8. These people are insane. So, is this yet another way to screw the working Vermonter? Hold it for 2 months at $10k???

    And then if they don’t hold it, is the state going to crush the landlord for not doing what the state wants?

    Allow boarding homes, many of them.

    Our zoning is killing everything. Even the state can’t navigate their own problem. How many out of state people are we going to import on our subsidized housing?

    Meanwhile a working Vermonter can only find shelter by Divine intervention.

    • We’re looking at trust funders, subsidized living…..Vermont is great.

      It’s the working Vermonter that is struggling……

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