Charles Winkleman

Burlington Politics from the Left

Bissonette and Legal Mass-Evictions

Feb
26

Over the course of a couple years, Bissonette has legally evicted nearly all of their tenants by upgrading their housing; the vast majority of said tenants were using Section-8 vouchers. This is not only entirely legal in an unregulated housing market like Burlington, but it is putting a huge, terrible housing crisis on Burlington’s low income residents as the city loses hundreds of units of affordable housing. While Mayor Weinberger regularly talks about the need to build market-rate housing to meet our city’s housing crisis, this crisis seems to exist outside of the Mayor’s reality. In fact it wasn’t until CEDO, the mayor, and city councilors wanted to sell city land to known slumlord Rick Bove that any elected officials recognized this severe loss of housing.

Just look at the numbers – in the past few years nearly 300 units of housing, most of which is located in the Old North End, over 540 bedrooms, are no longer affordable. The average price per bedroom in a Bissonette apartment, based off of their own numbers online, is $843 per bedroom. This is how gentrification raises the rents of previously affordable apartments, as $1700 for a 2 bedroom apartment is about the price for new Redstone apartments.

As far as I know, no elected officials have offered solutions on how to mitigate these legal mass evictions, or how to protect our city’s most vulnerable residents. These are the sort of issues that really define gentrification, and are the issues that our elected officials need to be actively fighting so that our must vulnerable neighbors are’t priced out the city entirely.

4 Responses to Bissonette and Legal Mass-Evictions

  1. It’s interesting to see whose political signs are in the windows at the office of Bissonette Properties, Miro and Pine’s currently and Knodell’s last election.

    • It’s certainly interesting to think about how wealth gives access to local officials and helps build relationships with them in ways that regular residents don’t have.

      And then if we think about how little has been done the past 10 years plus to help tenants in this city…I’d say ask your elected officials what their plan is.

  2. The loss of section 8 units is clearly a problem. Have you come across any inventive solutions? I know some European cities basically have right of first refusal when affordable units go on the market, so the city can buy them if it wants. Could something like this work in Burlington with CHT?

    The lack of market rate housing is actually a real issue too, though. And the pressure that creates on the lower section of the market is real. The solutions might be different for different sections of the market, but as long as there’s a crunch at the mid-range there’s a huge incentive to renovate low-range units and raise prices.
    This report has some really good data in it, especially on the lack of units. It puts pretty solid numbers behind the problem.
    https ://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/u308/IZDRAFTReportJanuary2017.pdf

    • I honestly haven’t looked too closely into solutions but one that comes to mind is only allowing a certain number or percentage of units a year be converted – it keeps downward rental pressure from getting too terrible, along with limited rental increases in between tenants, and raising the minimum wage already.

      The lack of market rate housing is a problem but I wouldn’t call market rate rentals mid range, since folks who rent often make significantly less money than the those who buy. Area Median Income is a very different number than Burlington Renter Median Income. Stagnant wages, rising healthcare costs, and a complete lack of investment in low income housing (after doubling the Housing Trust Fund, our city can build 2 units of housing a year), have really eaten into most folks ability to afford housing, and when we have a system where those with Section 8 are competing with anyone in the service or non profit industries, it means anyone who can’t afford luxury apartments is affected.

      When preschool teachers like myself, with 4 year degrees and a teaching license, qualify for inclusionary zoning, I don’t think building more $2,000 a month for 2 bedroom apartments is going to solve the problem.

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