Mayor’s Office

BTV Housing Policy Reform

Housing is one of the most important topics facing our city.

By getting it right, we have the opportunity to structure our land use in a way that benefits our climate and natural areas, makes it possible for our community to be more diverse, spreads the costs of our public services over a larger tax base, and much more.

For far too long, housing in Burlington has been too scarce and too expensive. In recent years, Burlington has made progress by strengthening the City's proud legacy of investing in permanently affordable housing, bolstering enforcement work, and examining land use policies with an eye toward how they restrict the creation of new housing. But we have more work to do.

The housing crisis in Burlington means that the average renter spends over 40 percent of their income on rent, a figure that is far too high. The housing crisis means that, for years, Burlington's vacancy rate has been well below 2 percent, making it very hard for renters to find a place to live and making it harder to enforce against discriminatory practices. The housing crisis means that, in 2018, only 10 percent of the new homes created in Chittenden County were in Burlington, a trend that focuses growth away from the type of dense, walkable area where many people want to live, and where we need people to live in order to address the climate crisis

In April, Mayor Weinberger announced in his State of the City address a plan to bring focus, urgency, and resolution to five key areas of unfinished business from the City’s Housing Action Plan. In June, the City kicked off the public discussion with the BTV Housing Summit to gather community and stakeholder input about each of these five areas, and, knowing that there will be more work to do beyond this, to start generating a list of what other work should come next. In September, the City hosted a second public meeting to share initial recommendations for policy reform in each of the five areas and ask for more input, and Mayor Weinberger visited each of the five Neighborhood Planning Assemblies to discuss these initiatives. On October 7, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution that refers these proposals to several of its committees and the Planning Commission, which will now work to refine these proposals over coming months.

These five initiatives will not change Burlington's housing crisis overnight. Taken together, though, they tackle many sides of the problem, and will make structural fixes that help address the availability and affordability of housing in Burlington. The five areas are:

  • Energy efficiency in rental housing: Updating our standards for energy efficiency in rental housing in order to support our climate goals and protect renters from unreasonably high utility costs.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units: Making it easier for people to create Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which offer more flexibility for families to age in place, offset housing costs for homeowners, and create additional neighborhood-scale housing options throughout the City.
  • Short-term rentals: Implementing new regulations for short-term rentals like Airbnb that help us reduce impacts on long-term housing availability and neighborhoods, while balancing the economic benefit for Burlingtonians who are hosts.
  • Parking minimums: Reforming our requirements for building new parking in residential developments in our downtown and along key transportation corridors, in order to reduce a major cost driver of housing, give people more choices when it comes to the cost of car ownership, and take a step toward aligning our land use policies with our climate goals.
  • Housing Trust Fund: Continuing Burlington’s legacy of supporting affordable housing by restoring and increasing the level of funding for the City’s Housing Trust Fund.

The City is also working to address other facets of the housing crisis, beyond just these five areas. Mayor Weinberger has asked CEDO to review the City's tenant protections, and deliver that review to the City Council, along with recommendations, by the end of October. On another track, in September, the City Council approved an agreement that outlines a process for the City to renegotiate its Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Vermont regarding student housing over the next year. To truly address Burlington's housing crisis will take work on all of these fronts.

Read more about each of these five areas, and next steps for this work, below.

Next Steps

On Monday, October 7, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution that refers these proposals to several of its committees and the Planning Commission, which will now work to refine these proposals over coming months.. You can find a detailed memo about the proposals, as well as the Council resolution, here.

Now, a Joint Committee of the Planning Commission and the City Council's Ordinance Committee will be meeting this month to hear comments on and discuss three of these proposals that include proposed zoning amendments, which are the proposals regarding Accessory Dwelling Units, reforming parking requirements, and implementing new regulations for short-term rentals. The scheduled meetings of this Joint Committee include:

- Tuesday, October 15 at 6:00 pm at the Fletcher Room at the Fletcher Free Library (topic: ADUs)

- Tuesday, October 22 at 6:30 pm at the Miller Center, 130 Gosse Court (tentative topic: parking)

- Wednesday, October 30 at 6:30 pm in Contois Auditorium, City Hall (tentative topic: short-term rentals)

Agendas for these meetings will be posted online in advance of the meeting at: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/PZ/PC/Agendas

In the coming months. City Council Committees will also be discussing updated standards for energy efficiency in rental housing, and a proposed charter change to restore and strengthen the level of funding for the Housing Trust Fund. Those meetings have not yet been scheduled.

About the Policies

While there will be more work to do on housing policy reform, the focus in summer-fall 2019 is on the below five areas, which are remaining, unfinished business from the City's 2015 Housing Action Plan. These policies are all aimed at increasing housing affordability and creating housing supply. The policies are:

Want to know more about the policies and the process?

Want to tell us what you think?

  • We have a feedback form in the works! For now, please email your thoughts to Olivia at olavecchia [at] burlingtonvt.gov.