Rental weatherization vote postponed despite broad council support

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:12 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - New Burlington City Council members took their seats Monday with one less Democrat and one more independent. And one of their first orders of business was to discuss a measure that would require the weatherization of rental properties in the city.

Despite broad support on the council, the ordinance requiring landlords to weatherize their rental properties has hit a slight bump in the road over the timeline for when it will be phased in. Some city staff members are in favor of implementing it over five years, while some councilors are in favor of a shorter timeline.

“Ultimately, it is a standard that we believe every rental unit needs to meet. This is a minimal housing standard. It’s about climate and it’s about fossil fuel use but it’s also about basic livability for tenants,” said Councilor Jack Hanson, P-East District.

Hanson says this will also help tenants’ wallets because a more efficient unit means less wasted money for renters, plus a more comfortable and less drafty living environment which can help the city reach its climate goals.

If passed, the ordinance would start with the least efficient units and require those landlords to comply first.

“You can basically compare how much natural gas is being used compared to the square footage of the building, and that’s how you know how efficient that building is,” Hanson said.

Gov. Phil Scott last week announced a plan to use $21 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to encourage weatherization across the state. There are currently incentives available in Burlington that would reimburse rental owners up to 75% and they would also have an initial out-of-pocket cap at $2,500. Also, if a tenant is low income, the weatherization can be covered 100%.

Councilors Jack Hanson and Ali Dieng also want to use this ordinance to bring more opportunities for local people to train in weatherization careers to help achieve this in the city.

“We are strategizing about how do we better train more Burlingtonians to get the certification necessary in order to help the city and the state in this job? I think these are jobs of the 21st century,” said Dieng, I-Ward 7.

This will now be sent back down to the ordinance committee where debate can occur regarding the timeline before sending it back to the council for a possible vote next month.

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