WWHT responds to criticisms from tenants in story

BRATTLEBORO — I read with great interest the front page story about how the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust was following state guidelines in its work to address peeling paint at a property on Old Depot Road in Putney.

The writer made a valiant effort to fact check the many false statements asserted by a neighbor who claims to be representing tenant concerns.

However, there remain a few inaccuracies in the story that need to be clarified.

One is the idea that the concern about peeling paint was brought to our attention by a neighbor or a resident. It was not. It was flagged by a conscientious staff member doing their job. They observed peeling paint during a routine inspection and took appropriate action to alert the residents of a potential safety concern with fencing and a sign.

No further work on this area has been done because the state has not issued the new required certification that recently went into effect. So the assertion that work was being conducted in this area without a mask or proper precautions is not the case. Only after the fence and signage was in place did a neighbor contact the paper to express concern.

This same neighbor took her concerns to the Selectboard, which directed the health inspector to follow up with the Housing Trust. The report back to the Selectboard was favorable because the health inspector verified that the steps we had taken were indeed the appropriate ones.

In addition, it was said that the Housing Trust has put its residents on a month-to-month lease which puts residents at risk for non-renewal for any reason. With the recent articles about no-cause evictions currently allowed by state law, it's understandable that this is a concern.

However, because of our mission, the Housing Trust does everything it can to help residents avoid eviction and takes those steps only when all other options have been exhausted. These steps are always taken through the court system, so if someone is in the unfortunate position of being evicted from a Housing Trust home, it is only after a judge has reviewed the situation and agreed that the circumstances warrant eviction.

I am not aware of any case in our 35-year history where we simply did not renew a lease for no-cause.

It is well known that Vermont is experiencing a housing crisis. The most recent report by USNews ranked Vermont a dismal 36 on the national affordability scale meaning there is a persistent and large gap between the high cost of housing and median income within the state. In addition, Windham County has the fourth highest affordability gap compared to other counties in the state.

The Housing Trust is implementing a variety of strategies to address this crisis. This includes helping homebuyers purchase an affordable home through our shared equity program, administering ARPA funds to support private landlords who wish to bring vacant apartments back on line, and building new rental homes with modest rents. We also support existing homeowners with low-cost rehab loans to help maintain the health and safety of their homes.

The staff at the Housing Trust is proud of this mission and the many ways in which we work together with state funders and local partners to create housing opportunities in the communities we serve.

We look forward to continuing this work in Putney and to bringing housing resources to Putney homebuyers, homeowners, private landlords, and renters.

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