Burlington City Council proposes new senior citizen committee

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The city of Burlington is creating a new committee in hopes of improving the quality of life for senior citizens.

The City Council on Monday voted unanimously to create the Council on Aging, which would focus exclusively on seniors’ needs.

Council President Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, says the committee will be partially made up of senior citizens and will aim to give them a space to express their concerns and solutions to the problems they face.

“I think that is very important for seniors here to have a voice and be part of this Council on Aging, so I’m looking forward to the process to create this and get it going in the springtime,” said Wright.

Wright says this has been in the works for a little more than a year. In 2019, City Council created the Senior Center Study Committee to make recommendations on delivering more efficient services to seniors. One of those recommendations was the creation of the Council on Aging.

Wright says some of the issues to be discussed are housing, transportation and community engagement.

“Making sure there's enough housing for seniors and also that it's affordable,” he said. “Transportation in regards to bus issues and making sure the sidewalks are good particularly around where senior centers are or where seniors are living.”

Housing is one of the top concerns for Burlington’s 12,000 seniors. Some of them say they’re having a hard time finding and affording a place to live.

“We need more housing for the seniors, of course. That seems to be the problem around here,” Michael Boucher, 70, told WCAX News. “When they say livable apartments… $1,200, $1,300 in these apartments. That's a little bit too much for people living on a fixed income.”

Senior housing in Burlington is available to anyone at least 55 years old. Some places require an income between $29,000 and $35,000. Depending on if someone lives at a senior apartment building or an assisted living facility, it could cost them anywhere between $850 to $8,000.

Boucher thinks that’s too pricey for the average senior.

“All of these beautiful apartments in Burlington going on and people have a hard time getting in. There’s a long waiting list. Every time they build them, they say they're going to be low-income but then when they build them, it's $1,200, $1,300 a month. So when they mean low-income, I'm thinking $400, $500, $600-month rent. And a lot of people can afford that but they can't afford that $1,200 a month,” he said.

Boucher hopes the city will address the cost of senior homes in Burlington as well as add more options.

“We need more assisted living places, too. I had a friend that had to go to three places before he found a good one and he’s 85 or 84 so we just need more people to pay attention to the seniors,” he said.

Wright says the resolution now heads to the Community Economic and Development Office and the Parks Department to decide who will serve on the committee and who will staff it. It will then head back to the City Council to be finalized sometime this spring.