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Weinberger unveils plan to address homelessness, housing shortage in Burlington

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 4:48 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Mayor Miro Weinberger says he has a plan to eliminate homelessness in Burlington.

The new 10-point action plan is dedicated to doubling housing production over the next five years and ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2024.

One of the points is the area around Sears Lane, where the city recently shut down a homeless encampment. The area previously was unable to have housing built there, but that could be set to change.

The city is going to be investing at least $5 million of its ARPA funds into building new permanently affordable housing and addressing chronic homelessness.

“There’s no housing down around here for any of us. I’m actually homeless right now and I have nowhere to go. The shelters are full, the motels are full and there’s just nowhere to go,” Paula Gaboriault said.

Gaboriault says anything the city can do to create more housing options would be incredibly valuable.

Mayor Weinberger says he hopes to create 30 shelter pods in the city for people who need facilities like that.

“Having these shelter pods in a low-barrier, well-managed, safe facility, we think, will appeal to and be a way to reach people that some of the other housing supports have not been successful with,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The city is creating a position for a dedicated special assistant to end homelessness in the Community and Economic Development Office.

And the mayor is setting out to create 1,250 homes by the end of 2026. About one-quarter of them will be permanently affordable homes.

Some of this requires changing zoning regulations near Sears Lane.

“Creates a balance between needs of folks in the industry that have been there for decades, the artists, the makers, with affordable housing, as well as a great need for our community and city,” said Michael Monte of the Champlain Housing Trust.

Progressive City Councilor Joe Magee was at the press conference. He has been a staunch critic of the measures the city has taken at Sears Lane and says they need to do more in the short term to help people who lived there. But he likes this plan.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are dedicating these resources to medium- and long-term goals. I think it’s important that we do address that supply issue,” Magee said.

The mayor says now is the time to take advantage of federal money to achieve these goals.

“What this is today is addressing the inadequacies of what we have done to date, recommitting ourselves to that goal and resourcing this effort properly so that this time it will succeed,” Weinberger said.

The 10-point action plan is lengthy. Other initiatives include working with UVM to build more on-campus housing to free up neighborhood space currently occupied by students.

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