State Auditor’s Report on the MOU Between the City of Burlington and UVM

The State Auditor’s office has recently released it’s report pertaining to the impact UVM enrollment has had on the Burlington housing crisis. Both Burlington City Councilors and UVM Trustees had been largely unaware of the fact that this report was pending, Since January, I have encouraged both of those bodies to pressure UVM leadership and the outgoing Mayor’s office for more openness. UVM Administration and Mayor Weinberger had known this report was being prepared as early as the first week in December, 2023.I’ve been very vocal on behalf of my constituents who have been requesting more significant guard rails before finalizing any agreement to the MOU between UVM and the City of Burlington. In short, I’ve requested that the MOU contain:1. A commitment from the University to permanently end the practice of using “forced triples” for on-campus housing.2. A commitment from UVM to formulate a deliberate strategy for housing more upperclass students in campus housing – including the consideration of subsidizing housing for first generation and low income students.3. A commitment from UVM to a long term enrollment plan that provides more specific benchmarks beyond the generic “we’re about where we want to be for enrollment”. Ideally, this enrollment plan would account for a mindfulness of the impact that UVM has on the surrounding rental vacancy rate.

Upon my initial reading, the Auditor’s report widely validates the concerns I have reported. I encourage you to read the full report. Please let me know if you have any access concerns with this link:

Highlights from the report are as follows:“UVM student count growth accounts for more than two-thirds of all Burlington population growth since 1990.”

“Compliance with previous agreements between the City and UVM has been mixed. The available data suggests that their combined effect on the Burlington housing market has not reduced off campus housing pressures.”

“Burlington’s population growth since the first UVM MOU has been modest. In 1990 Burlington’s population was 39,127, and rose to 44,595 in 2022, an increase of 5,468. During the same period, UVM’s total student enrollment grew by 4,993. While comprehensive historical data is not available, using the assumption first offered by UVM that approximately 80% of off-campus students reside in Burlington,5 we conclude that most of Burlington’s population growth the last three decades is attributable to UVM enrollment growth and that one of every four Burlington residents is a UVM student.”

“In addition, we find that UVM’s housing strategy during the performance period relied at least in part on the use of “forced triples.” The term refers to the conversion of double rooms, designed to comfortably accommodate two residents, into triple rooms by adding an extra bed. Sometimes utilized on campuses as a temporary solution during peak admission periods or unexpected housing shortages, “forced triples” have become a more permanent strategy at some universities to address the disparity between the number of students and available housing capacity. ”

Please do not hesitate to reach out with resulting concerns or question. My advice to the City Council will be to request far more significant guard rails before finalizing any agreement.