The latest solution to Vermont’s housing crisis? Paying landlords to rent to people

by Ciara McEneany

Officials hope a new state fund can sway landlords to rent to people who might otherwise lack housing.

The Vermont State Housing Authority launched the Landlord Relief Program last week with help from the state Department for Children and Families. Landlords who apply can receive funding to hold units for up to two months while they work with providers that offer housing vouchers. Recipients can also use the funds for any necessary work to bring units up to health and safety codes. 

The program originated from research by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency into the feasibility of a statewide fund to make sure landlords were being supported while also incentivizing them to expand the number of rental units in the state, according to Lily Sojourner, community services program manager with the Department for Children and Families’ Office of Economic Opportunity.  

“We had some focus groups with landlords and housing providers to see what their key costs were, what they needed and what successful elements of programs similar to this one in other states looked like,” Sojourner said. “And so, for the past six months we’ve been really working on building the policies and procedures needed while also bringing information to stakeholders.” 

The application process looks at how affordable a landlord’s units are or would be. 

“There is no income eligibility criteria for those who apply, but there is an affordability criterion,” said Tyler Maas, program director at the Vermont State Housing Authority. “So, the unit must be affordable. The rent must be of gross rent — a combination of the contract rent plus the utility allowance — and must be affordable at 80% of area median income, which is 30% of one’s salary.” 

Potential tenants do not need to be screened for income level because their eligibility is based on them already benefiting from a state assistance program.

The program aims to deal with the state’s deficit in rental housing, especially for those who are in higher need of housing, said Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC Community Action, a social services agency serving Bennington and Rutland. 

“There’s no income verification — it is based on the tenant already receiving some rental assistance or subsidy in a program. So, it’ll increase the number of units now being provided and made available to this group of Vermonters that often struggle with finding a landlord that’s willing to rent to them,” said Donahue.  

By giving landlords a financial safety net, Sojourner said, the program alleviates real or perceived risks to renting to prospective tenants who have housing subsidies or are homeless.

“We feel that this program lets the landlord know that we hear them and their concerns. We want them to go into these relationships in a positive way, feeling like they can build a strong relationship with a tenant,” said Sojourner. “Most of the time it is a successful tenancy, but if something happens, we are here to support landlords and kind of relieve a little bit of that pressure and burden.” 

Donahue believes the program will help mitigate the housing crisis enveloping Vermont and put those in need of housing in a stable environment. 

“This program is one of the potential answers to getting homeless folks transitioned into a more sustainable, permanent home versus a motel room, which is the version which we’re experiencing now,” said Donahue. “There are a lot of substandard apartments out there, unfortunately. And people are currently living in substandard conditions that we can’t condone.” 

Categories: Housing

6 replies »

  1. Already been done. Section Eight & Cha-Ching! The rent goes right into the slumlord’s checking account. GREAT! So more former motels & private homes being turned into slums by the State, great! BUILD IT & THEY WILL COME.

    Vermont can “save” the world yet again! Vermont can end global climate change! Vermont can end homelessness. N-O-T.

    But what Vermont CAN do is to continue to DESTROY itself egged on by packs of out-of-state & out-of-control “woke” lawmakers.

    Don’t forget that delicious maple syrup here tourists – as you bypass VT and head into N.H.! Farewell to these seedy hotels & tenements you see here & onto what might be greener pastures for a wee bit longer…. Adios, now!

  2. This is madness! As the complex regulatory world strangles the free market housing market it will become incumbent on “government” to now build, manage and control housing in Vermont. Government does not need to do this! Why should your tax dollar go to provide housing?
    Cut out all the regulations and the free market will fill the void for housing. The tax gobble gets worse every year. We need to reconstitute the Vermont Legislature with competent persons who will devise solutions without creating new rules or spending more of our dollars. Be very careful who you vote for next time.

  3. I have had rental property four different times in my life…NEVER AGAIN.!! 1st one my first home… Such a sweet log cabin…tenants destroyed my septic, broke windows, left windows open all fall, winter and spring until the wood rotted out. Tore up 2 massive decks and burned the wood in a firepit, burned over 20 cord of wood they were asked not to use. Cost me over 20000.00 that i didnt have, to fix. So it could be sold. 2nd one only carpeting and interior doors needed to be replaced. 3rd one a visiting nurse and her husband ruined the walls around the stove with grease, the apt was disgustingly filthy, a grill was ruined and they got into our freezer in the garage took what they wanted and left the door ajar. The forth was a property we bought..there were so many people living there, many little kids, young adults to grandparents. There was a cute house, mobile home and 2 large campers along with upward of 100 animals being abused. We are not done cleaning up the trash on the property after filling 2 roll off dumpsters, getting rid of the trashed mobile home, gutting the house that was completely redone 2 years ago. Thank goodness they took the campers with them. After all this there was absolutely nothing we could do to recoup our losses. I know of many landlords who feel this way with the same type of stories. They call the property owners slumlords…its because the tenants turned the aces into slums. I wonder if they have no respect because they are handed rent, heat, food and so much more. Just so you know…i had to rent out my house because as a single, disabled mom i couldnt afford it for a while, all the places i lived before that house were not pretty but what i could afford, every single place i fixed up the property. My landlords were very appreciative. As was i. Landlords have no rights…my rents were the price of the mortgage…no more…was not trying to make money just make the bills.

  4. Where are the adults in the room?
    “This program is one of the potential answers to getting homeless folks transitioned…”
    These folks need mental health treatment. This is inhumane and cruel. This doesn’t fix the suffering from addiction.
    What is wrong with you people?

  5. Haven’t we already been doing this for years now both with the federal section 8 program and the state program that provides the luxury and privacy of a hotel room to individuals who would ever be rented accommodations on their own merit?