Selectboard Meeting Notes – Brattleboro Renters Request Landlord Limits

selectboard september 1, 2020

The Brattleboro Selectboard discussed affordable housing at length Tuesday evening. A new affordable housing project downtown on Flat Street, a town-wide zoning change to create more rentable units, and a discussion of an ordinance to limit what landlords can collect up front from tenants all indicated difficulties for the 60% of residents who rent in Brattleboro.

The DPW also shared a bit of the spotlight, with road grants and a new mower attachment.

Comments | 13

  • Preliminaries

    Things get started a bit late.

    Chair Tim Wessel welcomes everyone. He had no remarks.

    Town Manager Peter Elwell said that there is a challenge for households with school age children. The state had provided funding to establish “hubs” to provide childcare services and camp-style services, for safe activities for kids. It’s non traditional. Brattleboro will help K-6 age kids with Rec & Parks + Library programming. Enrollment is on a daily basis – $35 a day. Gibson-Aiken Daycamp. Done in coordination with Meeting Waters YMCA. Still applying for a grant. Ready to launch, and we’re taking reservations. Whether or not there is funding to reimburse the town depends on if the Y is funded through the state program for hubs.

    Liz – are there scholarship opportunities for kids?

    Peter – we always work with a family who can’t pay a full price. Talk with Carol.

    Liz – $25 a day adds up quickly.

    Peter – we hope the state covers the costs. The $25 is to cover costs.

    Brandie Starr – it’s a great grant program. It is subsidized.

    Peter – and the Y will set up their own program as well as being a partner in the hub idea. We have high expectations.

    Daniel Quipp – We got an email from Hilary Francis that in preparation for RTM, the booklets you need are available for pickup at the library after tomorrow. M-Sat- show up with a sign that says RTM booklet and they’ll bring it to you. There is a practice RTM meeting coming up this Sat at 8:30 am.

    Tim – the booklet – the annual report. If anyone is missing one…

    Daniel – the March booklets won’t be required…

    Peter – there is some new material, and there are excerpts from the town report from the spring with short summaries and some background information of 6-8 articles. Those are repeated from the Town report for this meeting. The one document people might want to refer to that is not repeated is the Town’s audit… it was a clean audit ready for approval. Available in the Town Report from the spring, or at Town website. The booklet should be enough.

    Tim – it has all the organizational reports?

    Peter – it has the summaries that relate to articles. About 30 pages, not meant to repeat all, just focused on articles. There are hard copies at the library.

    Tim – the graphs were fun and informative.

    Public Participation:


  • Water & Sewer Commissioners

    Steve Barrett – I’m here to request that utilities Division buy three utility vehicles. Two smaller vehicles – proposing electric compact cars for daily rounds. Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids. About $100 a year in fuel. We went with the state bid on these Toyota Prius is $24,832 from Alderman’s Toyota, for a total of cost of $49,664. We’ll repurpose our fuel efficient cars to parking enforcement and we’ll sell.

    The third vehicle is a full-sized vehicle with a plow. It’s a 2014 – replace with a 2021 Dodge 1500 for $32,782,42, minus trade-in allowance, for a final cost of $19,582.41 from Central Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. All are in the budgeted capital plan. The pickup came in really low.

    Daniel – why is the truck so cheap?

    Steve – the state gets a good price and we trade in vehicles when they have more value, and we spend less on upkeep.

    Ian Goodnow – can you explain what the state bidding program is?

    Steve – the state solicits bids for all sorts of things and vendors put in a price and guarantee a bid price for a year. The town can take advantage of this, and get a good price. In most cases it works really well. Specialized equipment might go outside the system.


  • Grant Application Public Hearing – Affordable Housing Project at 47 Flat Street

    Patrick Moreland – there are two times that a CDBG project needs a public hearing – one at closeout and one at beginning. We’d like to apply for a grant for $492, 920 to sub grant to do a project at 47 Flat Street – (Sanel Auto parts). It’s been vacant and this is exciting – a $6.8 million project. There will be co-working office space and 4 floors of affordable housing above. It’s need one more floor. The building will be gutted and renovated, energy efficient. A real home run… a project to provide affordable housing in the downtown, enhances the grand list, good use of state funds… this touches all the bases. Low income housing tax credit means it will be “affordable ” for the next 30 years, according to HUD regulations. In addition to the grant, we recommend a $150k loan from the town to support the project. Happy to take questions. Bob Stevens is here is you have questions.

    Brandie Starr – this is excellent and am glad there is some stability with the 30 year time frame. HUD rates look different than Brattleboro market rates.

    Tim – AMI – Area median income.

    Daniel – I appreciate this project and the work going into it.

    Ian – We’ve done this twice for affordable housing – pulling from the housing fund. How does this differ?

    Patrick – it differs significantly. With Groundworks we made a grant to the project. Also a grant to Red Clover Commons. This is a competitive program statewide and you don’t always get what you apply for. Sometimes the Town makes up the difference. As the projects come together, there is a lot of communication about needs. $492k is a significant grant but this will be competitive. The $150k loan is what they requested of us.

    Peter – when funding is a loan, the repayment comes back into the revolving loan fund, and can be loaned out again or invested.

    Ian – this is different because it is a private? The other two were not private?

    Patrick – this is a private non-profit…. Community Development Support, Inc.

    Liz – I support this project. Another way for us to create low income housing for variety of resident in the town.

    Tim – I’d like to hear from Bob Stevens about the new organization…

    Bob Stevens – Patrick did a good job explaining the project. This n0n profit was formed to do affordable housing and projects. We’ll use multiple funding sources. One thing that is different, there are two types of affordable tax credits and one type aren’t used. They aren’t lucrative enough to make a project happen. This uses those tax credits as a way to do a demonstration project. If successful, we want to leverage those lost resources for other projects.

    Liz – can you describe the coworking space?

    Bob – we’ve wanted to do this for years. It isn’t profitable. The gig economy is 25% of the economy right now, and many places have buildings to support them. Our intent is to provide a space and partner with others – a business incubator and a way to build jobs. Coworking can lead to new ventures. We hope this location, the ground floor, will be their center.

    Tim – the revolving loan fund numbers?

    Peter Elwell – there’s currently in excess of $800k. There have been allocation made that haven’t been expended – about $3-400k. The unallocated amount is $480k. This will use $150k of that, and it will come back into the fund over time.

    Liz – this increases the value of the grand list.

    Gemma Seymour – what percentage are disability accessible?

    Bob Stevens – I think it is 10-20%. There is a code requirement. 2- 3 units of the total 19. There will be a new elevator and a new ramp. Every unit is visitable, and a few are designed for tenants.

    Gemma – I’d prefer that be 100%.

    Bob – we have some ADA rooms. We’re about a year out… stay in touch.

    Gemma – we should all consider ourselves temporarily abled. We should really think about that as a community.

    Skye Morse – 20% of the units will be dedicated to seniors and we’ll work with Senior Solutions. Just wanted to mention that aspect.

    Frank Austin – I agree with Gemma – 100% accessible by ADA standards.

    Brandie – I was surprised and naive that we aren’t making everything ADA for our “aging” demographic.

    Bob – There are a number of different building requirements. The entire building is accessible. All bathrooms. Visitability standards from the state. 20% are fully ADA and go further, for wheelchair living. We make them available, but not always renewed by people in wheelchairs. Are adaptable for aging in place. I have relatives in the Brooks House. We added things to help them.

    Skye – I believe you are correct.

    Grant application approved.
    Patrick Moreland and Peter Elwell appointed as contact/authorizing official. Approved.
    Loan of $150k from revolving loan fund contingent on getting the grant. Approved.

  • Interim Zoning Bylaw Public Hearing – Planning Commission & Planning Department

    Brandie – I had one child with pediatric surgery and another had vaccinations today, so if you see me run… they are heading to bed soon.

    Sue Fillion – we have planning commission members here tonight. I’m going to share my screen. (Patrick does some enabling). The Planning Commission has an interim bylaw for you for an emergency situation, such has erosion or commercial development. Trying to improve access and create new housing – a house on Green Street and Red Clover Commons… examples of what we want to cut through regulatory tape to allow more easily. Why? Planning wants to improve housing affordability. VT DHCD reviewed our land use regulations to find barriers to affordable homes. We’re doing many things right. We want to take the feedback we received and make some miso tweaks for big impacts. COVID-19 has made housing more precarious. Federal CARES money is directed toward housing and rental support. This money has to be spent by the end of the year. We have a need for housing. That’s the emergency situation we find ourselves in. The new interim bylaw would apply to urban center, residential neighborhoods, service center, village center, the IT centers, and rural business district – these parts of town. The two key pieces are #1. remove some density caps that we have. Residential density is now 18 per acre. It’s a stumbling block and limiting the number of units. We think we can try doing away with this standard. #2. eliminate unnecessary use restrictions – currently we have 3-5 units are conditional. We’re proposing that they be a permitted use. We have 3-4 units all over town. We think we have enough multiunit residences that they can be permitted uses. It would be conditional for new buildings. These are the proposals and we suggest two years be the time, then extend it for another year. You’ll get a request for a municipal planning grant to look at housing on a more permanent basis.

    Felicity – Sue captured it well. We’ve been working to improve housing and this is an excellent chance to test if changing zoning would help. I’d like to see more people move to downtown. We want to density downtown to be more sustainable.

    Prudence MacKinney – nothing to add. I agree…

    Tim Wessel – last January we gave you the okay to do Neighborhood Development Area – how does it work in with that?

    Sue – this works with the NDA. For certain projects it reduces state permit fees. This is a bit different. Easier permitting on the local level. It’s extended beyond the NDA area. We want this to be equitable.

    Ian – great presentation. Getting rid of the conditional permit is a good idea. Are there any ways to measure if this is successful?

    Sue – we haven’t given it a lot of thought. A couple times a year someone needs an additional unit so we can keep track of how many requests. We’ll give it some thought.

    Brandie – really great work. This is where the rubber meets the road regarding structural change in town. Who are we is reflected in our zoning. This is bold and innovative. This is big and dynamic and will make lasting change in town.

    Liz – a housing conference a few years ago had lots of strategies. I think this is great for Brattleboro. The most interesting thing is that we got an email already with someone ready to go. We have a forward thinking plan, to help revamp structures to create more units. This will help bring small scale units online, in contrast to the big project just approved. W should maximize the number of housing units.

    Tim – I agree.

    George Perides – if you have my letter, great. We recently took a three bedroom and split it into two plus an efficiency – got 22 inquiries right away. 65% are single person homes. Much space underutilized. This will help and alleviate the crisis we are in. Cares Act money is available until Dec 20…. (drops off)

    Gemma Seymour – I support this. I am always arguing for greater density. The only partial objection is that new construction shouldn’t be conditional.

    Gary Stroud – this is awesome. Demographically, are there any plans or projects for Canal Street? What are we doing to revitalize Canal Street?

    Sue – Red Clover Commons, some tools are in place, the NDA, but it is hard to talk about everything going on but hopefully there will be some development along there.

    Gary – the bridge project is on hold? Some places along Canal Street are closed. What are we doing to make it vibrant again? Are other projects in the making?

    Tim – good question, but a big question. The Town are not developers. We want to get out of the way of good development projects and downtown density. You don’t want to get used to empty buildings.

    Peter – the time tonight is about housing, and will treat Canal Street as other areas. Tonight is focused on Canal Street as much as anyplace else in town. Tonight is aiming for higher density housing all over town.

    Gary – there are other placers and buildings – the big red brick budding on Elm Street.

    Liz – the Planning Commission – they plan. They can help- make projects happen.

    George – I’m in Europe right now – a sketchy line – but the Cares Act money means we need to act fast. Each new unit will help a little bit.


  • A short break

    The board takes a break for 15 minutes – 8:05.

  • Purchase of Rotary Head for Roadside Mower – Department of Public Works

    Steve Barrett – this new one will do a better job, using the tractor we have. It fits well with the stormwater program we have. We’ll use our membership through Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) to purchase the mower head through Pete’s Equipment of Morrisville, Vermont, for the price of $13,215.20. We’re under budget in the capital Plan budget with this. It’ll help us maintain the roadways.

    Tim – I did a promo video for Unimog. They have reaching arm things that cut roadways. It’s the only comment I could think of at this point.

    Ian – The flail mower will bring down brush enough so then the rotary mower takes over?

    Steve – yes, we don’t need the larger rotary head for road sides.


  • Better Roads Grants from VTrans – Accept and Appropriate (i) Inventory of Road Erosion (ii) Culvert Replacement and Stone Lined Ditch on Bonnyvale Road

    Steve – some Better Road grants to accept. We got a category A and category B grant. The first grant in the amount of $8,000 is for the Town’s Road Erosion Inventory, and the second grant in the amount of $20,000 is for Correction of Erosion/Stormwater Problems (culvert replacement and stone lined ditch on Bonnyvale Road). We seek approval for both grants, which requires 20% unkind matching. We increased stormwater funding this year, and some of that can be used as match – it will be an ongoing theme: stormwater.

    Ian – a general question about the selectnboard

    Steve – I’ll see how I can help you…

    Ian – are we on both ends of this? The grant being applied for, and it being accepted?

    Steve – exactly. We may ask to apply and accept in one motion in the future.

    Ian – is there any time we would not want you to accept it… when we asked you to apply?

    Daniel – it’s for you to decide.

    Liz – we had to ask to apply for grants when I was on the skatepark committee – which made sense. The screening process up front is helpful. Sometimes grants have conditions that towns might not accept.

    Peter – there are times we apply for something and don’t always get what we apply for, so you can see…

    Grants accepted.

  • Request to Allow Free Display of “We Celebrate Democracy/Civil Rights For All” Banner

    Tamara Stenn – I hope Woody is here. We’ve been working with many groups to have a universal sign show our values for democracy for all, hung up on Main Street. I can speak if he isn’t here. Do you know what we’ve done?

    Tim – the board knows…

    Tamara – we have a sign that has been hung on main Street in the past, and we reached out to area organizations, and it says we celebrate democracy and civil rights for all on the other side. We’re adding a diversity flag and have a BLM panel. We often pay to have it hung, but we just want it there on main Street for no cost, and it i universal for everyone, and there is currently nothing hung there right now.

    Liz – what’s the normal process and explain this exception?

    Peter – the policy includes fees because the hanging is done by off-duty firefighters on Sundays and there is some overtime. $150 for a week in Brattleboro; out of town is $300 for a week. Some will reserve space for multiple weeks. It’s a form of advertising. Most are nonprofits. Most weeks someone has reserved it and has paid for it. Many organizations say there is value to the investment greater than some other promotion opportunities. We have room for two banners. many weeks there are one, some two, rarely none.

    Liz – So, this ask is that we suspend our process for this group among other groups for the reason that their group is important.

    Peter – Yes. Hanging of banners has been done for decades by the Fire Department. Town Gov’t events are free, but we don’t know of any other previous free times for non-profits.

    Ian – there is no precedent for this. Two other questions – how many groups in a year use the service and how many weeks of no banners at all.

    Peter – It is rare to have no banners.. The organizations that have reserved the space are about 30-40 a year.

    Brandie – would you say those banners promote events that aren’t happening this year due to COVID?

    Peter – some promote events and some have general messaging. Hard to judge impact of COVID.

    Tim – I’m a little uncomfortable treating one group different than every other on banners.

    Tamara – I wanted to add that this has been worked on for two months with a community effort. A petition went around and 52 registered voters signed it. In addition, we have organizations in support as well. I can show you what the panels look like with a screen share.

    Daniel – so, my understanding is that supporters have contributed in the past, so why wouldn’t that continue. 52 people and it costs $150 – not a huge outlay.

    Tamara – it is a weekly charge. Paying to hang it is fine, but paying again when it is up and nothing needs to replace it – we want to keep it up longer.

    Peter – when an organization asks for longer, and there is no need otherwise, it is possible to have it up for more than a week.

    Tamara – without the payments?

    Tim – you are paying for ad time. If we do this for your organization, and there is always a banner, it is less special.

    Tamara – it isn’t advertising so much as celebrating democracy. We want that feeling of inclusion out there and show that we are a safe place for everybody.

    Daniel – the community contributing to pay to hang this really shows support. Bennington and other places have painted in the streets. They are done funded by the municipality, and while the sentiment is hard to argue with, if we use town funding, the town should drive what that message is.

    Tim – they are now 501(c)3 so tax deductible!

    Ian – have other organization put up “messages” rather than events?

    Peter – it has happened, but I can’t think of one. Mostly events, but sometimes just a message.

    Woody –

    Tim – looks like Woody isn’t coming up…

    Liz – I don’t want us to be in the position of weighing who is more worthy for a free banner. We have a process in place, and 52 people could cough up $3 and conform.

    Tim – I agree. The Town making a statement of any political nature – I’m uncomfortable with that, and also it is unfair to others.

    Daniel – we could paint BLM on Main Street.

    Brandie – yes!

    Liz – if they go through the process, we’d be happy to have it hung on the street.

    Peter – it has happened a dozen or more times that they have paid.

    Woody – I signed on and have been here but you didn’t know who I was. Could I go through my spiel. Very sorry about this.

    Tim – could you define that? How much? Could you compress it a bit?

    Woody Bernhart – It is getting late. I’m the founder of the organization and creator of the banner. Our purpose is to promote nonviolent civil rights work and democracy and part of that is the banner. In these difficult times, and with fewer banners over Maina Street due to COVID 19, we and the 54 who signed our petition request the banner be flown whenever there is no other banner to be hung – whenever there is a space. It would be a good thing for all of us to see the banner with the addition of a BLM and rainbow panel on each end. The purpose is to stand up for democracy, inclusivity and diversity, and stand up against racism and exclusion. We’re asking to wave the banner hanging fee. We’re asking the rest of the community to pay for what some of us want to do. We’ve spent money on banners every year. For in-town organizations the fees would be half. We believe it is right at this time for town to make this positive public statement.

    Liz – this isn’t a Brattleboro group. If they had, it would have saved them a lot of money. If there was a Brattleboro address to make the application it wouldn’t be so expensive?

    Woody – registered in Marlboro. This isn’t about us saving money, it is about the Town making a strong statement, standing up for black people and people of unusual sexual preference. It is is important for towns to stand up for people who are being discriminated against. It’s about standing up for oppressed people. We’ve had racist graffiti… that’s why I’m here.

    Brandie – I see it is not about the banner and fee – it is about the statement. I wouldn’t say “unusual sexual preferences” – a gentle correction would be LGBTQ+ friends. We’re going to be asked to make that statement a lot. People who aren’t safe are asking us to make a statement – those who don’t feel included are also safe.

    Ian – Helpful to hear from Woody. My position is simple – we agree with he message on the banner, and if it isn’t about the money, out of the 30-40 other groups, I would think others have a similar messages to this banner, and I don’t see the board to make a choice of one group over another.

    Daniel – I’d be happy to hear from a few more.

    Tara O’Brien – thanks for calling out that slip of the tongue. One thing this group did do while putting together this new banner, they worked with the Root and NAACP to be part of the process, and were open to receiving feedback. They are open to making it more inclusive. The Root supports it. It’s a statement the Town can make by having it up there, and what that means to the marginalized community to see their flag up there.

    David Levenbach – two thoughts – 1 – if a group wishes to pay the fee for a message that was less widely supported – if BLM was racist, for example – would the Town hang that? 2 – if the board gives this group to hang without a fee, it is favoring one message over another. Public safety review looks at town operations, but this is political speech, and the town subsidizing a political message.

    Tamara – I just advocate for Woody…

    Robby – a couple of meetings ago you weren’t going to tolerate racist messages, and someone saying BLM is racist is racist, and can we stop that and get to the big issues.

    Tim – a better example would be putting up a pro Blue Lives Matter – the commenters point was that to favor one political point of view over another isn’t a road we want to go down.

    Liz – there is a process for putting up a banner. We shouldn’t be making these judgments and exceptions. The fairness of the process has been established.

    Daniel – fundraising is part of activism. This organization should continue to raise money and hang banners. Don’t see why we are laboring over this.

    Free banner voted down 1-4.

  • Tenants’ Union of Brattleboro Request for Ordinance Regulating Housing Lease Deposits

    Trevor Stannus –

    Ananda – reads statement of colonialism and Abenaki. Our proposal got over 200 signatures.

    Trevor – the Tenants Unit wants to have an ordinance to limit costs to first month’s rent and a security deposit. Burlington has done this. 60% of Brattleboro residents are renters. A momentary loss of income means losing a home. Many issues are systemic, and COVID has made it worst. 1st last and security is another barrier. We need to make sure housing is accessible. 3x an affordable rate is still a high amount.

    Ananda – reads text of ordinance. Similar to Burlington’s. No other payments beyond first month and security deposit may be required. A reasonable deposit can be required against normal wear and tear and non payment of rent or utilities, or articles abandoned… not more than one month’s rent. It shall be set aside and gather interest. We’ve heard from many landlords. Some tenants want to remain anonymous.

    Dory – tenant – A big aspect of this is about the general welfare of the town. 60% of town are renters, and this is toward the general welfare of the town. A common sense law to keep the town affordable for young renters. It wouldn’t affect many landlords in town. It would benefit renters. Landlords signed the petition in support. We want Brattleboro to be a place for everyone. I’ve struggled to pay rent, because of the first, last and security rules. The board is doing a great job with affordable housing tonight. VT is vulnerable to housing. 20% pay more than 50% of their income for rent. Windham County has a 1% vacancy rate. It is hard to find anything affordable in Brattleboro.

    Echo Marshall – tenant – do you want VT to become conservative? NH has this law statewide, as does NY. NH has more progressive tenant protections.

    Earl – tenant – so, as we throw this to community comment, we expect to hear that landlords won’t het as much… we aren’t taking anything away from landlords. It assumes the current structure is fair. The burden forced on tenants is greater than that of landlords if this passes. People don’t have savings, and many live paycheck to paycheck. An average Vt citizen would pay 1/3 of income, plus pay 1st, last and security deposit – that will be one month’s wages. With no savings, and a deficit, to protect someone else’s investment. We don’t choose to rent, we have to rent. last month’s rent is a huge barrier. many need family or friends help pay deposits. What is someone doesn’t have generational wealth to rely on. You may think we are crazy radicals, but NH and NY have this. Being a landlord is an investment and it is a risk. There are rules to collect all rent due. Many landlords don’t charge last months’ rent, so we assume those that do are filtering out people with less money. We don’t choose to rent, we have to rent.

    Robby – we’re all tenants in Brattleboro. Landlords already think of renters as untrustworthy. One email says: while I agree with you, this ordinance will cause more inequity and will push out those without good credit ratings… landlords doing this are baseline discrimination – everyone deserves safe housing. Openly threatening to deny housing access is violent.

    Barry – we feel the threats of restricting housing as an empty threat. Landlords won’t keep their properties empty. Why would landlords make a stink about losing last month’s rent and then keep their apartments empty? It’s an empty threat. There are trends of who has been excluded from housing access and generational wealth – redlining and systematic denial of housing. Much favoring European over Black. Make housing accessible for people who live here. Affordable housing is direly needed in Brattleboro -not just market rate affordable. AMI shows that 74% of renters have less than the median. Can’t earn enough to pay first, last and security deposit. There are trends in housing insecurity. Stand up for tenants and class discrimination we are facing.

    Ananda – it has been suggested that landlords could raise rents to create a loophole, or to recoup losses. This notion is openly retaliatory. The idea that poor folk due more damage is wrong – people who can’t pay take better care. Horror stories are myths that degrade. Raising rent would result in more houselessness. It would contribute to gentrification. Landlords would push out locals in favor of out of staters. Wealth and income gaps show discrimination. Raising rent would uphold white supremacy.

    Trevor – the main concern we heard was the risk landlords will have to take on, by not screening out poorer renters. We’ve pointed out tenants are already liable. When landlords try to avoid that risk they push it into the larger economy.

    Brandie – honestly – to move into the current apartment was $4200. At the time, 2 years ago, I felt there was no other option. I was going through a divorce and had children. It’s a second floor small apartment. I didn’t realize what the neighbor below would hear. I’ve put in 32 applications to find housing in town this year. Landlords told me they could charge more for people out of town. $4200 for me was only doable because my foster parents put it up, and I’m paying it back. I have $3200 saved, but then my car was stolen, so I needed a new vehicle. There’s not extra money. In the last 2 weeks I put in 18 applications. Everything was rented or sold. You can’t pay first, last and security. You can’t pay it. You pay first and security. I’ve gotten nasty emails from local landlords saying they’ll make it so you have to have special references, or tons of money if we take away the last month. If y we take it away they will punish these people. What are we saying as a town? Being blackmailed by people who are scared? People are sleeping in hotels. Is that who we are as a town? It’s not who I am.

    Tim – I’m a little uncomfortable… there was a letter written … I’m looking at one we received early on. I don’t see any threat.

    Brandie – letters sent to the tenant’s union.

    Daniel – I think this proposal is pretty reasonable. Burlington and Barre have the same thing, as do NH and NY. I’d like to hear good arguments against. I want us to be an affordable place. I do understand landlords have damages. last month seems like a de facto security deposit. You should pay first and a security deposit. The last month is doubling down on the security deposit. I’ve rented all over the world in expensive places. We were lucky and were good tenants. I’d love to hear good reasons why this is a bad idea, because I’m in favor of it right now.

    Ian – I have a lot of thoughts, but there are many in the queue…

    Tim – everyone watching should understand the proposal – this proposal is asking us to limit the amount of a security deposit to one month, and prohibit last month’s. As a landlord that’s my policy…

    Brandie – I’ve never had that.

    Liz – you should rent from Tim

    Brandie – he doesn’t have enough bedrooms.

    Tim – I don’t have a problem limiting security deposit. If we say NH and NY have a law, we should know what it is. Last month’s rent seems fairly common.

    Brandie – really common. My third time since 2010. Usually people’s parents help them.

    Tim – I don’t let security deposit be as much as last month, so it can’t be used as last month. How do states make last month’s rent illegal. There are questions to be answered.

    Liz – I’d like to hear from the public, but to answer many questions, we should interrogate Peter and ask for a legal review. I’d like to know what staff thinks, and what the other ordinances say.

    Daniel – I assume that if we say yes there will be a legal review…

    Ian – more to ask – no, I won’t interrupt.

    Peter – the best thing the board can do is convey a sense of what you would like to be reviewed further, so we can give you helpful information. For instance, Bob Fisher said security deposits in VT are something you can regulate. Anything beyond that, rent regulation, it gets more complicated and he’d need to do more research. Bob could take a deeper look and provide advice for you going forward. The closer the board can describe a desired outcome, the better he can do. If you’d like this ordinance, Bob could look it up and come back. If you have another idea, he could look that up.

    Ian – I agree with Daniel. We’d go through the full process. I’d like to add to this discussion. Barre got rid of it at their town meeting this year… I’m reading their town website… curious why they voted it away. Both towns have housing boards of review, and I’m curious if that goes hand in hand with this? A board for landlord and tenants to avoid small claims court. Is this something we’d want to consider?

    Daniel – Barre says at 2020 meeting the voters eliminated it 854-857. Small claims get used. I bet once COVIF hit they regretted it.

    Ann – tenant – hi, okay, sorry, so I’ll reiterate some points. I’ve been a renter for 11 years. Rented 4 apartments in Brattleboro and others around here. I have a good job, a Master’s degree, good credit. I’m an ideal tenants. no children, just a cat. I pay extra deposits ($200-800) or extra monthly fees. My last three moves have pout me close to debt or in debt for several months. 200 sq feet put me in debt for a long time. I’ve wanted to be a homeowner. I could probably have put deposits on houses with all the rent I’ve paid. I’ve lived in an apartment with broken window, with mold, infestations… my security was cut in half for carpet cleaning, even though I steam cleaned it. My current apartment had a broken step for 4 months, used by elderly neighbors. Our landlord has over $300 of my money and 4 other tenants. We get reprimanded for having chairs on the lawn and what we put in the gardens. Limited options for moving, changes in income… renting is far riskier for tenants in terms of health and safety than any landlord. Landlords choose to buy a second or third home for profit. VT has the almost the most second homes per capita. Landlords collect interest on our rent and deposits and hold the power of shelter over tenants. Limiting the amount of security deposit, when it only secures one of the parties – this is a small step and really important. Rent is a third of a tenants’s income sometimes more. Those who need shelter aren’t customers. We are community members. We pour your coffee and teach your children. We need a place to live.

    Ibrahim Dahlsrtom-Hakki – I’m a landlord with 17 units. Mostly serving lower income individuals. None charge more than HUD rates. We try to keep them safe and clean for tenants. I wrote a lengthy letter to board members. Nothing was meant as a threat, or what I would do, it is what I think the impact of the policy will be if passed. I agree with the challenges expressed. Brattleboro is expensive. It’s a tight housing market and tough for lower income individuals. Many landlords want to be part of the solution. If this is the path, it will have the opposite effect from what is intended. I rent to low income tenants. Many don’t have credit. I started that way. If I see some credit issues in the past, if I don’t have last month’s rent, it changes my risk assessment. Some tenants don’t always pay last moth’s rent. It would be difficult for me to work with someone with a higher financial risk if I didn’t have this option. If you change nothing else, you’ll have less housing for those at highest risk. I posted an apartment and within 24 hours 30 people applied for it. I don’t want to pick the most affluent to minimize that risk. I want to take the first person that meets minimum criteria. Just articulating unintended consequence possibilities. I hear in Burlington the low income housings converted to college housing, or requiring a co-signer. I see the problem, but this won’t solve it.

    Tim – lets take a break. 10:20.

  • Tenants’ Union of Brattleboro Request for Ordinance Regulating Housing Lease Deposits PT 2

    Waiting for Brandie and Liz….

    45 people in the meeting at 10:20.

    Tim – The ASL interpreters have to go at 11, so… we have a limitation.

    Ian – can we hear from the public some more, then stop and clarifying before we end, (and two more agenda items…)

    Steve Carmichael – I’m a retired professor in Brattleboro. Started to buy and fix up places in town. Collect some rent. A few years later I got another place and fixed that up, returned these to the tax rolls. My margin of profit isn’t that large with 4 units. I charge what the market will bear. I’ve had more tenants apply than I have. I’ve taken some risks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve spent 10k in the last two years due to lost rents and legal fees. Demonizing landlords isn’t a fair characterization. It is a business – I support low income housing, but not on the backs of landlords. if the town wants to have a fund for if people leave. Using credit scores is prejudiced? That demonizes landlords. WE buy buildings for profit, not to do social service. I’m supporting my retirement and keep my busting in good shape. I’m in favor of limiting a damage deposit. That’s reasonable. Evicting costs money. Having last month’s rent minimizes the damage. The idea that landlords will raise the rent is a red herring. People will pay what the market will bear. Thanks for listening.

    Gemma – I’m a renter, I was homeless when I arrived and twice since. The two apartments required help from friends to pay costs of moving. Renters rent because landlords have buildings that would be otherwise available to buy. There is an extreme power imbalance because of this. It’s unreasonable that landlords pass on risk to tenants. Landlords have insurance. Limiting security deposits to a single month won’t impact landlords. This law will pass legal scrutiny. It is in the public interest. Rents are already at the maximum the market can bear. Land values are created by the community. Decrease costs by increasing supply. landlords restrict supply – if they didn’t exist, those properties would be available. They should exit the market to be helpful.

    Ryan Stratton – landlords have talked about the current housing supply and the extra applicants. Last week, a friend had a landlord walkthrough with someone newand the rent was going up 60% a month. It’s what can happen when we don’t keep these things in check.

    Barry – last month’s rent is missing the point – you are asking people to pay more than a monthly income. No one gets paid for their first and last month’s work. It is the board’s duty to stand for the welfare of the people.The proposal states it is not last month’s rent. There are other penalties for missing rents. This is survival or exclusion from survival. It is a landlord’s choice to make decisions on tenants. This isn’t complicated. It is legal and possible. Security deposits can be regulated. You can adopt this. This is well within your powers.

    Robby – you forgot to ask Ibrahim where he was from – Massachusetts.

    Tim – this is a proposed ordinance, so it requires and ordinance, and we’ll need two readings, we can’t do it all tonight. Ian, you wanted to get a board go around… or we can kick it to staff. We have other things on the agenda, and we have to do them.

    Ian – I think then let’s provide clarity about what we are asking. What I’d like is to look at legality and ability we can do this, and if it is possible, to draft an ordinance based off the Burlington one. That one is very clear.

    Peter – to help you be efficient, if there are three of you who would like to see that for October 6, that’s very clear and we can move ahead. if not, I need further direction.

    Brandie – I’d like it.

    Daniel – I like it and to find out what happened in Barre and Burlington.

    Ian – and housing board of review.

    Liz – I’d also like to look into whether state legislature has looked at this issue statewide, but also it was just last year that we acted to regulate rental inspection program, it it was a departure for us to enter into the landlord-tenant relationship. The Fire Dept brought the need to us. This is much broader, and I’m not comfortable with that broader definition. I want legal clarification that this is something we can actually do.

    Tim – no desire to stand in the way, but also want to see more to support it.

    Brandie – I support it but can wait for more from staff.

    Tim – we’re moving on.

  • Assignment of Motions on Articles for Representative Town Meeting (RTM)

    They go through the motions.

    (ha… a motion joke..)

    They also assign them to be read. Ian got the long, Human Services motion. Newbie error.

    Also, Peter Elwell is appointed as the VLCT voting delegate. No travel this year. All remote. One policy meeting, and one business meeting.

    Appointing the new Ag Committee happened, with some confusion over the appointing process. They end after 11.

  • Medieval Lexicon

    Why is it impossible for everyone here discussing housing rentals not to use Feudal concepts, like, “Landlord/serf… um, er, ‘tenant?'”

  • Disempowering Language

    Yes..those feudal words are as disempowering as the common usage of the word “boss” to describe one’s supervisor. And…don’t get me started on the word “boobs” to describe breasts, the lifegiving part of the human anatomy…

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