Municipalities take on the burden of hotel housing program ending

Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 12:13 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont legislators and housing advocates argue not enough is being done to help people being pushed out of the state’s hotel housing program. Now, it’s falling on municipalities to establish their own local supports and shelters.

In Montpelier and surrounding communities, another wave of evictions will be taking place Thursday. City officials say a lot of these people were supposed to be out June 1, but the motels they were staying in voluntarily allowed them to stay an additional two weeks with hopes of making the transition out easier.

“I am Rebecca Dupree and I am actually in the hotel-motel program with my two children,” said a participant at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Many like her have been searching for a place to go since the end of the Hotel Housing Program was announced. Even those with Housing Choice Vouchers are struggling due to affordability and demand within the market.

“I do 10 or 15 applications a week to apartments. Top of the state all the way to the bottom of the state, and I haven’t found anything,” Dupree continued. “If we lose that voucher, we are completely we’re just in trouble.”

Dupree went on to explain many people have lost their vouchers due to being unable to find anywhere to use them.

This month alone, 800 people across Vermont lost the roofs over their heads and more are expected to follow. Montpelier Mayor Jack McCullough says they’re ill-equipped for an influx of unhoused people.

“It’s not like we have a solution that we can hold out to people to say, ‘Here’s where you’re going to live. Here’s where you can stay,’” McCullough explained. “It’s just not there.”

The Montpelier City Council met Wednesday with local lawmakers. Rep. Conor Casey, D- Montpelier, voted against the budget and is among those who call the lack of planning for the program’s end a punch in the gut.

“It’s a defining moment for us as a state to say, how do we treat people. With an $8.5 billion budget, we need to do better than this,” Casey said. “We can’t evict close to 3,000 people within a couple months and expect that everything’s going to be OK?”

Casey says there’s also a lot of good in the spending plan, but hopes to see some change as it goes back before the Legislature during next week’s veto session.

“A companion bill would reallocate funding within the budget,” he explained. “It would have a more gradual wind-down of the hotel voucher program, which we all agree can’t continue in perpetuity.”

During Wednesday’s council meeting in Montpelier, a lot of people pointed out the collaboration from municipalities and local resources, but hope to see more help from Gov. Phil Scott’s administration.

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