House Fails to Override Veto of Burlington's 'Just Cause' Eviction Bill | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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House Fails to Override Veto of Burlington's 'Just Cause' Eviction Bill


Published May 10, 2022 at 1:07 p.m.
Updated July 28, 2022 at 10:35 a.m.

  • Kim Scafuro
Vermont lawmakers on Tuesday fell one vote short of overturning Gov. Phil Scott's veto of a bill that would have required landlords to have a "just cause" to evict tenants in Burlington.

The House voted 99-51 to override Scott's rejection of H.708, which would have prevented landlords from removing tenants by not renewing a lease, a de facto eviction allowed under state law. Landlords would have needed to instead provide a "just cause," such as nonpayment of rent. With all 150 members present, the body needed a two-thirds majority, or 100 votes, to advance the legislation.

The failure was lambasted by Burlington City Council Progressives, who had successfully shepherded the charter change onto the ballot in 2021. City voters passed the measure by a wide margin.

City Councilor Gene Bergman (P-Ward 2) said Scott and lawmakers now have an obligation to help tenants who are struggling to find housing and who face removal by landlords "who use Vermont’s no cause eviction loophole to open up housing to maximize their returns."

"[Lawmakers'] rejection makes a mockery of local control, of the idea that our cities and towns can be and are 'laboratories of democracy,' and that they care about people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads," Bergman said in a statement. "They have failed us."
Scott vetoed the measure last week over concerns that it would undermine property owners' rights and further squeeze the city’s already-tight housing market.

In a letter to lawmakers, the governor said the bill would make it too difficult to remove problematic tenants and could encourage landlords to rent only to people with high credit scores and solid references, leaving vulnerable renters — such as refugees or low-income people — without housing.

Advocates pushed back on that logic, arguing that those people already lose out in Vermont's rental market.
“After two years and so much effort by so many, today is a sad day," Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1) said in a statement. "We live in a country where a minority believe and yet can uphold that basic family planning should be a crime. Today is another hit for democracy and collective liberation.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger, who attended Scott's weekly press briefing Tuesday to discuss housing issues, called the vote "a disappointing outcome to many people fighting for renters' protections in Burlington." But he said the city already has strong, pro-renter regulations that it will continue to enforce.

Ahead of the 2021 vote, Weinberger’s campaign team said something similar: that the mayor "does not have a public position on the ballot item itself," though he supports renter protections — as well as eviction as a "necessary last resort right of landlords."

On Tuesday, the mayor said he'll continue pushing for policies to boost the city's housing stock, which will increase vacancy rates and drive down rents. Weinberger's 10-point housing plan released late last year calls for building 1,250 more housing units by 2027.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would strike archaic references to prostitution from Burlington's charter, a change that voters approved this past March. The measure, which already passed the House, now heads to Scott's desk for approval.

Last month, Scott did sign a different Burlington charter change, which will allow the city to charge carbon taxes on owners of properties heated with fossil fuels.