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$25M effort to support Vermont renters, landlords kicks off next week

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 4:58 PM EDT
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Paying the bills can be a struggle even in good times. Now, there's help coming for Vermont renters and landlords through the Rental Housing Stabilization Program.

"I am very hopeful that this is going to provide relief for both landlords and tenants around the state," said Angela Zaikowski with the Vermont Landlords Association. "There's folks who are really in a jam."

The Rental Housing Stabilization Program was born out of the state's stimulus package that provides financial support for broadband, housing, and other initiatives in the wake of COVID-19. It includes $25-million to help tenants pay rent and supports landlords.

Vermont's state of emergency bars landlords from evicting tenants who don't pay. Meanwhile, landlords have to pay their own bills like mortgages and utilities.

"We knew that that relief money would be coming. We didn't know exactly what it would look like," said Jean Murray with Vermont Legal Aid. The group worked in collaboration with the Vermont Landlords Association to advocate for the money. Murray says of the estimated 76,000 individuals who rent in Vermont, about 18,000 pay more than 50 percent of their income on the payments. She says in any given year about two percent of renters are evicted. Seventy-five percent of those evictions are because tenants owe $2,000 or less.

"That means in regular times, their budgets are pretty much on edge," Murray said. She says as many tenants' unemployment benefits run out by the end of the month, they'll be in trouble. The collaborative effort aims to prevent more people left on the streets. "Many people, who with a little help can afford to stay where they are and keep their tenancies going, that's what we want to have happen."

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