Update on the Just Cause Eviction Charter Change

You are likely to hear about the Burlington Just Cause Eviction Protections Charter Change as we resume conversations on the legislative component of finalizing that amendment. I want to provide details to the process by which we are attempting to, once again, honor the will of Burlington voters.

On Town Meeting Day, 2021, Burlington voters approved a charter change that would create an amendment to the charter of the City of Burlington to authorize the City Council to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the eviction of residential tenants without just cause. That vote passed with 64% in favor of the amendment in all 8 wards and after having been thoroughly vetted by three committees of the City Council. The vote to pursue the amendment was approved by City Council with a vote of 10-2 including affirmation from Democrats, Progressives, and one Independent.

Once a charter change is approved by a municipality’s voters, the State Legislature is required to grant final approval. Burlington’s charter change passed the House on February 18, 2022, passed the Senate (with amendments) on April 8, 2022, and then received House approval of the Senate amendments on April 15, 2022. The Governor vetoed the charter change on May 3, 2022 and the House failed to override that veto by one vote.

Since then, former Representative Mulvaney-Stanek has consistently requested that we return the matter to the full body for another vote and has been joined by Representative Small of Winooski who has been advocating for a similar charter change on behalf of Winooski who passed their amendment in 2022. Essex and Montpelier have also now each passed similar amendments.

In response, we have been asked to delay the process pending the creation of a statewide policy that would prohibit no-cause evictions. Unfortunately, we have also been consistently reminded of how difficult it would be to create such a statewide policy. I, along with the other remaining Progressive Representatives, were encouraged by the fact that the House Committee on General and Housing had begun working on H. 829, an act relating to creating permanent upstream eviction protections and enhancing housing stability. Unfortunately, this bill purporting to create eviction protections did not do so in any significant way. 

Accordingly, the same Progressive Representatives offered an amendment that would create a moratorium to no-cause evictions until a statewide policy could be drafted. That amendment was found to be unfavorable on a vote of 6-2-4. We have been repeatedly told to wait for a statewide policy on just cause evictions to be developed. We have also been repeatedly told how difficult it is to develop a statewide policy on just cause evictions. Now, when the only bill purporting to create permanent upstream eviction protections arrives, leadership refuses to accept an amendment that would create those very protections.

Currently, we have not yet had the opportunity to have the full debate on the amendment with the entire body. I anticipate that will happen on Tuesday, April 2nd. House leadership has two opportunities right now:
1. Allow the charter changes for Burlington, Winooski, Essex, and Montpelier on the floor for full debate, or
2. Support the amendment to H. 829 offered by Representative Small and others.

If you would like to contact House leadership to encourage either option, you can do so easily with this action step:

As always, reach out should you wish to have a more detailed conversation.