Sunday, September 23, 2018

Vermonters Remain Impoverished in Federal Budget--Sanders, Leahy, Welch Silent

Our Congressional Delegation—Leahy, Sanders and Welch--do an absolutely lousy job educating Vermonters on the federal budget and how we all get fleeced by Trump and the Republicans. The Defense budget is the most obvious, the 2017 federal budget, part-year President Obama compared to the two Trump budgets, the one we operate under right now, 2018, and the “base” budget Congress has agreed to starting October 1 for 2019, total increase is $73.9 billion, over 15% in two years when we had just ended the Iraq War and sharply curtailed troops in Afghanistan.  Based on Vermont's per capita share of $2 million per billion of federal expenditure we undertake an additional $147.8 million share of Defense expenditures, fiscal year 2019 over fiscal year 2017. This truly is “huge.” For example, the 13,000 Vermont renter households (about one in seven statewide) receiving federal “affordable housing assistance” (30% of income max for rent) consumes about $106 million funds. (Federal budget increase in a recent decade of affordable housing assistants units, 1%.)The defense department increase equals about 1 ½ times total affordable housing assistance in Vermont!  The  Which to you prefer, serving the needs of 1,800 households on housing assistance waiting lists alone here in Chittenden County or $148 million for defense? Likely and correctly Leahy, Sanders, and Welch will say if they did not support the $73.9 billion defense increase, the Republican Scrooge Brigade would have gutted housing assistance and most other discretionary social support programs like our community health centers and child services. Fine, Congressional delegation, but tell the truth every day how this year Vermonters anti-up $147.8 million to support more F 35s, the Afghanistan War, etc. Each breath of criticizing a Supreme Court nominee, single payer health, or farmer subsidies, tell us Vermonters where our program increases tax money goes to—more F 35s and military drones. The lack of honesty from our Vermont political leaders helps explains frustration building up since about 1980 over the accelerating maldistribution of economic benefits which mostly accrue to the top 1%. Sad comment on the so-called leaders of Vermont with its town meeting government where town budgets get screened down the the last penny. 

The argument made by Democrats is that since 2000 they controlled the budget only for two years at the beginning of the Obama Administration when getting out of the biggest economic hole since the depression--justifiably--was task one.  But the stagnation of incomes began with Reagan in 1980 as did the almost four decade into economic inequality, a level now seen since the 1920s.   Yet the senior political leadership shuns addressing the class war won by the rich!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sign the Petition and/or Make a Contribution--Stop the Parkway, Start Community Re-design!

Action Alert!

You can help s
top the Champlain Parkway and ensure starting a Community Re-design!
Two steps you can take to make a difference!
Join together and take action for safe streets in our South End, save
up to $8 million, reduce delay for all, help the environment and
business!! (Cheaper, greener, quicker and much safer!) The Pine
Street Coalition needs both community support and the dollars to carry
forward legal efforts.
1. Please sign the petition to join the grassroots Pine Street
Coalition fight to stop the Parkway and start a new citizen-driven

2. If you are able, please donate to sustain the legal challenge
(even a $6 suggested donation representing 2006 when last public
hearing on the Parkway ended can make a difference!)

or mail your contribution made out to the
Pine Street Coalition, Post Office Box 8726, Burlington, VT  05402

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sign the Petition!

Every Burlington resident gets hurt in the unsafe, dangerous wasteful $43 million design. This petition follows two years of grassroots efforts by the Pine Street Coalition and concerned residents. Public comment ended in 2006 with design done when no Complete Streets Law existed, no best practices of today including roundabouts and cycle track. The neighborhood changed rapidly but the design did not! 

That's why I signed a petition to Governor Phil Scott, which says:

"Start a new safe Parkway design for this generation benefiting Burlington's South End vibrant neighborhoods which (1) adds safe walk and bike facilities (2) cuts climate change pollutants (3) decreases injury crashes (4) stops dead ending Pine Street (5) costs less and avoids up to 1 1/2 lane roadway miles (6) gains six acres for economic development, open space and Englesby Brook protection." 

Will you sign the petition, too? Click here to add your name: 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pine Street Coalition News Conference, Challenge Documents "Box" and Channel 5 Coverage

Making the move to demand a new public design process for the Champlain Parkway the Pine Street Coalition filing of a package of over 200+ pages April 3 to City, State and Federal Highway officials along with the news conference can be found here

The news conference on You Tube here:

And Channel 5 Burlington news story and nightly news clip here:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pine Street Coalition Challenges for a New Community Design of Champlain Parkway

....a Democratic Path to a Safe, Quality Parkway for the
South End! “Let's Do It Right the First Time”

Pine Street Coalition Tony Redington 343-6616
Post Office Box 8726 Steve Goodkind 316-6045
Burlington, VT 05402 Charles Simpson 865-5110

BURLINGTON—The Pine Street Coalition today announced its challenge to Federal, State
and City governments to redesign the Champlain Parkway, citing a paradigm shift in
highway safety, environmental justice, and water quality law since the proposed road was
last publicly evaluated by federal and state regulators ten years ago.

Federal and state highway design laws changed in 2012, making safety for vehicles,
bicyclists and pedestrians the top priority. The Champlain Parkway uses older highway
designs that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) documents say are significantly less safe.

FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures and Vermont’s Complete Street Laws adopted
in the last decade require safety first,” says Tony Redington, leader of the Pine Street
Coalition and retired Vermont and New Hampshire transportation planner. “Roadway
elements like roundabouts, which reduce serious accidents by 90%, and dedicated cycle tracks which make biking a safe, environmentally sound transportation option, are not part the Champlain Parkway’s outdated design. Failure to re-evaluate the Parkway in light of current knowledge and law about highway safety will, quite simply, costs lives.”

Since the last public hearing on the Parkway in 2006, Burlington’s South End has
become one of Burlington’s most vibrant communities, filled with restaurants, breweries,
new housing, shops, and a growing technology enclave and new incubator spaces. “The
Parkway design fails because it does not take into consideration today’s realities,” says
Steve Goodkind, Burlington’s former Public Works Director who has joined the Pine Street
Coalition’s efforts. “The Parkway would cut off the Pine Street corridor, and prevent planned future development in the City’s Enterprise Zone,” Goodkind added.

The Parkway would also bisect the Maple-King Street neighborhood, which is one of
Burlington’s poorest and most diverse communities. “Federal laws adopted in the last ten
years require environmental justice review to ensure that the voices of affected residents
are heard in the planning process,” says South End resident and community development
expert Dr. Charles Simpson. The Pine Street Coalition cites a lack of agency outreach, as well as an absence of aesthetic and noise impact analysis in the Maple-King Street community.

The South End 2.3 mile Parkway costing an estimated $43.1 million remains a vestige
of the four-lane roadway thinking of the 1960s. The plan for a Burlington ring road now
long abandoned included the Parkway super highway rammed through the waterfront
and Old North End.

If the Federal and State agencies do not re-open the environmental review process
within 90 days, the Pine Street Coalition says it will file action in federal court this summer.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

What's the News About a Challenge to the Champlain Parkway?

The Pine Street Coalition has a major announcement set for Tuesday April 3 presenting a major push for a re-design of the Champlain Parkway involving current best practices and safety designs, allowing the residents and businesses today to craft a roadway needed for these times, responding to changes in the community and numerous major law and regulation changes--from the Vermont Complete Streets Act to new noise regulations, new best practices for separate walk and bike facilities designs (including roundabouts and cycle track), and avoidance of costly highway which damages the environment and requires regular upkeep.   

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A New Start Truly Affordable Housing Approach for Burlington and Vermont

Have figured out a possible formula for a State/Burlington approach which at much lower cost than feds Section 8/vouchers/etc. will make a real difference and provide confidence among legislators/city councilors that the money really helps make a difference.

First, it marries the non-profit housing engine in the state which knows they cannot reach the lowest income where the crisis sits—and that lots of folks in non-profit housing still suffer from an extraordinary amount of income going to rent—but know they are better off than thrown to the lions in the private rental “market” where they once were either as an owner or renter.

HUD programs cost in Vermont $700+ month or about $9,000 a household. (Remember we want to help low income homeowners and mobile home owners which the feds do not allow.) So, in a collaborative carefully worked out City/State program(s) “affordable housing assistance” tied to the recipient to the degree possible gets allocated to non-profits for a portion of their “tax credit” units which already are a few hundred below market but neither enable the lower income to pay less than 25% of their income nor are rents adjusted with a household has a sharp drop income. So, instead of 10 units of “livable housing” units per $100,000 using a strictly HUD approach, we get more, perhaps 15-17 units—and this makes a real difference. HUD should even give us $1 million (or more) to try a 10 year demo to be the first to do it. Variations are infinite, so to speak—co-op, student, senior, mixed, etc.

We can sell the $2 a night fee if we can involve all elements of the concerned groups and actors. Right now there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm. Must change. $15 for wages and $2 for truly affordable housing!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Housing Policy for Burlington and State of Vermont--A Three Pronged Interim Policy Approach

Following discussions and exploration over the past year, I have been working on further policy analysis to seek a “one fits all policy” to deal with the radical changes in the Burlington, Chittenden County, and Vermont housing market. Part of the housing assistance needs involves folding in populations left out of the dominant federal programs particularly lower income senior homeowners as well as acute housing needs of falling through the cracks in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health, our hospitals, and the obvious needs of the homeless.

The lack of a unifying housing policy at all levels, the need for State/local funding starting with the Governor's Poverty Council recommendation for the $2 a night lodging fee as a funding source, and finally, recognizing the value as well as limitation of current State efforts using non-profit housing agencies—all are summarized in a three part policy which is hereby recommended as a starting point for discussion for all to consider and support.

Below please find a general background piece to the short brief policy, attached.

Prefatory Note:
At two major Burlington housing developments in process--311 apartments in Sinex's Town Center and Cambrian Rise 735 apartments which total over 1,000—not a single homeless person or very low income household receives “affordable housing assistance” (federal very low income limit for a family of three, $37,100).
Any “affordable housing assistance”--30% of household income maximum for  rent—for the homeless and very low income gets drawn almost completely from the existing Vermont pool of federal units. The 20%+ in these two projects of “inclusionary zoning” (IZ) apartments priced--for example at $1,200 monthly for a 2-bedroom--mostly serve middle income households which includes just the upper range of $49,000 to $59,000 income for a family of three in the federal “low income” schedule for Burlington metro area.

(Note $59,000 income is about 80% of the median income for 3-person families, the upper level for federal "affordable housing assistance" [AHA].)

Introduction and Larger Background

Attached please find a draft wording of a three-part universal housing policy, an interim “no regrets” vehicle, which directly addresses a Burlington and State need for an “affordable housing assistance” (AHA) program built around a $2 nightly lodging fee.

The lack of a clear State or Burlington housing policy makes informed discussion very difficult. A policy analyst must scramble to find available key data in a radically changed housing market from even three years ago. The housing market itself and needs change as the housing market emerged from the Great Recession and building began in earnest about 2015 while federal housing dollars stagnation over the past decade now demands Burlington and Vermont state programming to meet unrelenting needs.

At the State level housing needs policies rests on data sources of 2014 and prior. Since that time in Burlington alone boasts about 3,000 apartments built or well into development which expands the rental housing over 30% (for examples over 1,000 units alone in Burlington Town Center and Cambrian Rise). Since 2015 the decades long 1-2% rental vacancy rates suddenly escalated in the City and solidly reside at or above a healthy 3-5% range of the total rental inventory. ( For the data base of current State policies see p 9 footnote 3 )

Basic housing needs in Chittenden County have shifted from a lack of supply of housing and affordability to the single track need for “affordable housing assistance” (AHA). “Affordable housing assistance” means in federal and housing community language a home where rent or ownership costs consume no more than 30% of household income. In Vermont there are 13,000 units of “affordable housing assistance”--about one in six renters benefiting—primarily in the form of federal Section 8, Public Housing and “Housing Choice Vouchers” administered by our State and local housing authorities.

Why is Housing Different?

Housing for Vermont families differs from food and medical care, both entitlements ultimately guaranteed now by federal programs and monies. Housing remains a scramble for limited “affordable housing assistance” (AHA) and the twin need, lack of household protection from loss of housing from changed economic circumstances also provided in “affordable housing assistance,” i.e., a decline in income is matched by a decreased rent. Today there are no significant State and local AHA programs.
The roughly 2,000 on waiting lists today in Chittenden County and Burlington for what assistance is available testifies to that fact that affordable housing assistance is a critical and unaddressed need. More importantly with stagnant incomes for three decades now and cost of housing relatively higher, housing—already the biggest cost in the typical household budget—can no longer be ignored in State and City human service programming. Today a new element is added, the presence of ever increasing numbers of senior homeowners on fixed incomes unable to age in place. Something must be done.

The Dollar Dimensions

The State of Vermont housing programs provide very little AHA. The 13,000 AHA units in Vermont represent a $104 million in federal funds. In 2017 other federal assistance like Community Development Block Grants and homeownership subsidy amounted to $8.6 million. State fragmented housing assistance initiatives—very little long term AHA—amounts at most to $10 million.

The attached brief “background” and three basic policies provides a starting point for discussion and three interim policy directions until a through State and City policy development process takes place. We cannot even begin to address housing needs without a stable and significant amount of funding. A City initiative might fund 5 to 15 units pilot of “affordable housing assistance” (AHA)--equal in cost to a single professional position at City Hall. A State program, already recommended by the Governor's Pathways from Poverty in 2016 and considered at last session, consists of a $2 nightly lodging fee mostly paid by out-of-state visitors which would fund over 1,000 units of “affordable housing assistance” (AHA).

A State AHA program also directly addresses a number of existing patchwork housing efforts provided by hospitals, the prison system, and the mental health agencies—three major government areas where housing is being provided in the community so the key organizations can avoid the huge financial burden of in-facility service because no AHA is available. The Department of Mental Health, Department of Corrections and hospitals hold individuals at great expense who only need a place to live with AHA support at a cost of about $9,000 yearly versus $62,000 for a Vermont prisoner with hospital stays of all type well above.

The three policies call for:
1. carrying out a State and City housing policy plan process
2. starting a statewide program of “affordable housing assistance” (AHA) employing a $2 a night lodging fee serving over 1,000 low income households, senior homeowners and renters in need, and the homeless
3. continued support for housing development through “inclusionary zoning” practice by Burlington and housing development by non-profit housing agencies like Champlain Housing Trust and senior/disabled houser Cathedral Corporation. Unless paired some or all “affordable housing assistance” these programs serve almost exclusively moderate and middle income households.


1/7/2018 Draft

A Universal Vermont and Burlington City Housing Policy Statement


Federal entitlement programs today insuring all households basic food security and health care. But no Federal “affordable housing assistance” (AHA) entitlement program exists. Federal truly “affordable housing assistance” is limited here in Vermont to 13,000 low income and disabled rental households—about one in six renters. Popularly known as Public Housing, Section 8 and Housing Choice Vouchers, “affordable housing assistance” (AHA) defined by the U.S. government means a household pays at most 30% of income for housing with rent adjusted downward if income declines. “Affordable housing assistance” is by design a “livable rent or ownership” also providing “shelter security” for recipients who know a sudden change in income does not threaten shelter loss. Truly “affordable housing assistance” remains a huge unmet need.

There exists no expectation the federal programs will expand to meet State and local needs. Both homeowners and renters face housing affordability challenge and any program must address both. The rapidly growing number of senior homeowners on fixed income pose a new concern as this group cannot be served by current programs. In Burlington alone over 1,000 wait on lists for existing “affordable housing assistance” and Cathedral Corporation serving seniors and the disabled in Chittenden County waiting lists tops 700 applicants seeking Federal “affordable housing assistance” or non-profit moderate income housing.

Three Overarching Policies for Today

  1. Establish a clear and comprehensive set of (City) (State) housing policies and measurable objectives focused on the low income and the disabled

  1. Dedicate funds from a State $2 nightly lodging fee to create an “affordable housing assistance” program based on need for low income seniors and families as well as disabled Vermonters (30% of household income maximum adjusted if income declines). This program includes a homeowner component.

  1. Advance non-profit and other housing development public policies and programs benefiting moderate income Vermonters.

A base document outlining Vermont housing information and programs: “2017 Vermont Housing Budget and Investment Report” Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development