Housing is a human right — but charter change does nothing to support that right

BRATTLEBORO — This year's Brattleboro Town Meeting ballot has a proposal to stuff some disjointed housing rental regulations into the Town Charter.

We should vote it down and work for meaningful changes that will actually help people.

I say that as one who was part of the group that launched this charter change effort but who moved away when the organizers insisted on listening more to what Burlington wanted than to what Brattleboro needs.

There are many problems with the amendment as written, not the least of which is that it tries to shoehorn what should be an ordinance into the town charter.

So what's wrong with that?

An ordinance is something we in Brattleboro can change whenever needed. It can adapt when we learn more about what the ordinance affects, just as we can change parking regulations or zoning.

But as part of our charter, any change to this measure would require action by the Vermont Legislature and approval by the governor. Change would be unwieldily and slow.

For example, suppose the rent limit is too high or too low. How do we change it? Back to the Legislature.

What if the reasons for lease termination are too tight or too loose and need to change? Back to the Legislature.

Everything would be in the hands of Montpelier, not Brattleboro.

And then there is the list of what is missing for meaningful housing support. At the top of the list is enforcement.

Since the fake ordinance does not set up any kind of an arbitration board, enforcement would be up to the courts. We have heard landlords complain about the problems of using the courts to evict tenants. But with this fake ordinance, tenants who feel their leases were terminated inappropriately would need to get a lawyer and go to court themselves.

And what about the conversion of long-term, stable housing to vacation rentals? There is nothing in this fake ordinance to slow or reverse removing those properties from the rental roles.

I think housing is a human right - but this charter change does nothing to support that right. In fact, it degrades it by taking rental properties off the rolls. All agree that the big problem is tight supply of housing. This fake ordinance will do absolutely nothing to help that and, in fact, will make it worse.

Please join me in voting no on Article II.

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