City Council: Housing Cuts Are Federally Offensive | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

City Council: Housing Cuts Are Federally Offensive 

Local Matters

When the Burlington City Council met last week to consider a resolution condemning the upcoming budget cuts to the federal housing-assistance program known as Section 8, the public hearing had all the trappings of a theater of the absurd.

Several hundred people showed up for the hearing, some carrying signs and placards that read "Housing is a basic human right" and "America's homeless... the new refugees." City Council members listened intently to the heartfelt and impassioned stories from poor, disabled and elderly Vermonters, many of whom are terrified that they'll end up on the street if they lose their federal housing vouchers. Local landlords, low-income advocates, public housing directors and members of the clergy also voiced their outrage, including one local nun who condemned the Bush administration's hypocrisy on this "pro-life issue."

Paul Dettman, executive director of the Burlington Housing Authority, reminded the council that Section 8 supports around 1700 households in the Burlington area alone and contributes about $13 million to the local economy in direct payments to landlords. Dettman also pointed out that Section 8 recipients are among the most vulnerable members of society. In Burlington, 75 percent are considered "extremely low-income," meaning they earn less than $12,000 a year. One in 10 is elderly, he said, and about four in 10 are mentally or physically disabled. "Any further cuts," Dettman concluded, "will completely cripple our program."

Then there were letters from Vermont's congressional delegation condemning the Bush administration cuts, which are the most drastic ever proposed in the program's 30-year history. Following the speeches, council members voiced their support for the resolution. Phil Fiermonte (P, Ward 3) called the evening's hearing "the most moving testimony I've ever heard" in his six years on the council. Council President Andy Montroll (D, Ward 6) said that "People deserve better than having their safety net pulled out from under them."

In the end, the resolution passed with unanimous support and was sent on to the Vermont Legislature, Congress and the White House. But even with backing of City Council, the mayor, the governor and both houses of the General Assembly, there was also another prevalent, yet unspoken, sentiment in the room: This was a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in News

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation