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Coalition forms to lobby Vermont Legislature on just cause eviction measures

A screenshot of the Just Cause Eviction Burlington, Vermont logo
WAMC screenshot

A coalition of advocacy groups and progressive officials are pushing the Vermont state legislature to pass measures supporting housing justice across the state next year.

On Town Meeting Day last March, Burlington, Vermont voters passed a proposed charter change that would “provide protections for residential tenants from evictions without just cause” on a 63 to 37 percent vote. Because it is a charter change the Vermont legislature must also approve the measure. Just Cause policies require landlords to justify evictions.

A coalition of groups recently held a virtual launch of a Just Cause Eviction Campaign that will push for approval of the Burlington charter change and advocate for expansion of the measure throughout the state.

Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity Statewide Housing Navigator Ryan Murphy is a founding member of the campaign. She works with renters who call the tenants’ rights hotline.

“I talk with people who are experiencing no cause terminations on an almost daily basis," Murphy said. "If a landlord can terminate any tenancy without a given reason they can use no cause eviction as a cover for illegal and unfair housing practices. As the law currently stands even a tenant who abides by their lease and pays their rent in full and on time can be terminated without cause. Eliminating no cause as a reason for termination will help hold landlords accountable to existing law and increase renter stability.”

Hunger Free Vermont Universal School Meals Campaign Manager Teddy Waszazak said the anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization is joining the just cause eviction campaign because housing is a critical need that is interwoven with their work.

“Hunger Free Vermont understands that if you don’t have stable housing you’re not going to have stable access to food security," Waszazk said. "If you’re not able to access transportation, if you’re not able to access good wages, good health care, you’re not going to be able to take care of yourself and take care of your family. Hunger Free Vermont is advocating strongly for the universal school meals program and just as important as that is making sure that kids have a safe place to go home to. And that is all about just cause eviction. We have so many students all over the state that are dealing with homelessness right now and it’s an issue that is affecting the community up in Burlington very strongly.”

Vermont State Labor Council Executive Director Liz Medina notes that just cause is a foundational concept in most labor contracts that provide a base level of job security. She said it needs to be extended to housing.

“This isn’t an issue of two equal parties that deserve equal consideration," Medina said. "This is a issue of inequality between a landlord that has immense power over the lives of their tenants. And I think as a society and as legislators the job should be to balance these inequalities and to create democracy in our communities and in our governance through policies like just cause.”

Just Cause Eviction measures adopted by New York cities like Albany, Hudson and Poughkeepsie have faced challenges from landlords.

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