Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Office

  Welcome to the City of Burlington’s Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (REIB), where our mission is to safeguard accessibility, equity, and belonging using the tools of the government.





Although there is no fix for systemic harms such as slavery, there are remediation and restorative actions that can take place to move us toward an inclusive City. By doing so, we can build a Burlington where all citizens can fully embrace the everyday joys of life.



A Brief History of Burlington and Equity


Burlington is widely heralded for its progressive economic and social policies, and public commitments to promoting individual liberties. Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery and to introduce same-sex civil unions. Its most populous city, Burlington, has blazed the trail for other American cities pursuing policies and programs that promote general quality of life and prioritize the livelihoods of local people over those of multinational corporations.


A hallmark of Burlington’s progressivism is strong public sector leadership. When many other American cities transformed their deindustrialized and dilapidated harbors into luxury gated housing and other privatized spaces, Burlington restructured its waterfront as public trust lands and redeveloped it for community-serving uses such as parks, museums, and piers. The phased strategy further designated a portion of waterfront lands for future generations to decide its use.


Burlington has also been a national leader in operationalizing models of housing and land use development to stabilize communities and allow working-class residents to build wealth through housing. In 1984, the municipality established one of the earliest one of the earliest - today, certainly the largest in scale - community land trusts (CLTs). The subsequent creation of the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation, Housing Trust Fund, and Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance put in place a “ladder of affordability” encompassing rental and co-op rental, ownership, cohousing, and shared equity homeownership models. 


The City of Burlington, with state and federal support, has further pursued innovative approaches to workforce and economic development. Established in 1983, the Community Economic Development Office prioritized neighborhood planning and improvements benefiting low income and working class residents, in addition to downtown redevelopment promoting local businesses. Alongside city initiatives such as the Burlington Revolving Loan Program and Matching Grant Program, the state-level Vermont Employee Ownership Center (established in 2001), has technically assisted and financed employee-owned businesses.


The egalitarian values and ethos of Burlingtonians, while notable, remain imbued in a dominant culture of whiteness. Vermont remains overwhelmingly white—the second most racially homogeneous state in the nation. To date, its congressional representatives have been white and male, as have been all of Burlington’s mayors. While the City of Burlington is home to the state’s largest foreign born population and has the highest number of BIPOC residents, its business, institutional, and nonprofit leadership lack diverse representation and are therefore vulnerable to paternalism, cultural biases, and blindspots.


The City of Burlington created the Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (REIB) in 2019 and, amidst nationwide protests in defense of Black Lives and uneven impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on BIPOC communities, the City made a commitment to “further racial justice” by allocating an initial $1M to the Racial Justice Fund of the City’s FY21 annual budget, and by declaring racism “a public health crisis.” In 2021, Burlington also became one of the only municipalities in the nation to establish a task force on reparations. The “Queen City” has long blazed the trail for the rest of the state as well as the nation.