-by Paul Dragon, CVOEO Executive Director
Many of us go to our homes in the evening and don’t need to worry if we will still have a home in the morning. That is not the case for many Vermont tenants who live day-to-day not knowing why or when they might be evicted. Think about it: Vermont law allows landlords to evict any tenant for any reason with as little as 90 days’ notice. Of course there are wonderful landlords who treat their tenants with respect and dignity; however, shouldn’t we establish protections that are standard and apply to all?
Eviction is a traumatic event with lasting effects on a person and family’s emotional, social, and physical well-being. In fact, according to several studies, eviction and homelessness are linked to higher rates of parental stress and depression, abuse, neglect, and other mental health conditions. No-cause eviction is particularly worrisome for children and older Vermonters as well as people of color. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, people of color have less access to safe and secure housing than their white counterparts. No cause evictions can also be used to mask illegal discrimination. According to national data from the Eviction Lab, Black individuals made up 19.9% of all adult renters in the counties where there was data, but made up 32.7% of all evictions. This statistic is striking and not only deepens our understanding of racial and public health disparities, but also necessitates change. After all, safe and affordable housing is a public health issue and No Cause Eviction exasperates and deepens systemic racism.
Vermonters should resist the status quo where many go to bed at night in ease while many others wonder where they might be the next day. This instability and disparity is a recipe for self-defeat in a community. It would be much better to put equitable systems in place that safeguard everyone’s rights and build a sense of security and stability. When we develop systems for safe and affordable housing, food security, and healthcare, people and communities flourish and the economy prospers.
CVOEO supports the Just Cause proposal to regulate evictions in Burlington. Under the proposed Just Cause Eviction charter change, landlords would retain their right to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, breach of lease, breaking state or municipal law, or refusal to sign a new lease with reasonable changes and reasonable exemptions.
A just cause eviction policy simply means that landlords will have to provide a good reason for evicting their tenants; this is not only reasonable but obvious in a just society. A Just Cause policy will increase stability and security for the 62% of Burlington residents who rent, and will move us towards a more equitable and healthier community.