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Lawmakers explore permanent dwelling options for homeless

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 5:01 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Housing advocates and lawmakers are pitching a plan to eliminate homelessness and get more people into permanent dwellings.

In a virtual press conference Thursday, advocates for Vermonters experiencing homelessness pitched a plan to create housing and supports for the homeless. Advocate Brenda Siegel says any plan should include more stable housing, a new housing ombudsman position within state government, a housing bill of rights, and an expansion of the General Assistance program.

“It is no longer okay to pause or move slower as the need for housing grows,” Siegel said. “We must acknowledge that permanent housing will not be online quickly enough to address the need in the meantime.”

Vermont’s hotel-motel program is fully funded until March and the Legislature is proposing an extension until July. But policymakers want to do more, including expanding shelters, creating accessory dwelling units, and breaking up larger homes into multi-unit apartments.

Senate President Becca Balint, D-Windham County, admits setting up housing to serve homeless Vermonters will take time. “It’s not an easy fix. I’m trying to concentrate this session on the things that are already in progress and make a plan for several years out. It’s going to take many different levers to pull,” she said.

Lawmakers are also re-visiting a statewide rental registry bill that is similar to one vetoed by the governor last year.

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