1991 Finalist
City of Burlington, Vermont
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

The Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) of Burlington, Vermont, conceived its Rebuilding the Housing Tenure Ladder program against the backdrop of a local housing market that was dangerously out of control, with rents and prices rising steeply and steadily beyond the reach of lower-income residents, and a federal housing department that was increasingly out of the picture. It was clear to the new city administration, elected in 1981, that something had to be done to address Burlington’s housing problems. It was also clear that any new effort would have to be undertaken exclusively at a local level.

The Burlington CEDO’s goal is to foster the availability of affordable housing for citizens looking to move from precarious to more secure living situations. Its principal activity has been to establish a nonprofit network that supports the CEDO in its efforts to rebuild the housing tenure ladder. More specifically, CEDO has initiated and supported the following activities. CEDO opened an integrated system of three emergency shelters, a transitional housing program, and five buildings containing 80 units of permanent housing for the houseless. CEDO has initiated a low-interest loan program for housing rehabilitation as well as for the benefit of elderly homeowners in need of capital to finance home repair and rehabilitation. CEDO has expanded the pool of available rental housing units that are owned and operated by private, nonprofit organizations and has supported the Burlington Community Land Trust’s and Champlain Valley Mutual Housing Federation’s efforts to build affordable housing units. CEDO also offers landlord-tenant education services and conducts routine inspection of all rental units. In addition, CEDO regulates security deposit requirements to prevent escalation and the demolition or conversion of rental housing.

The program’s success, aside from the continuing survival and expanding capacity of CEDO’s nonprofit partners, is measured in terms of: 1) the number of housing units that have been added to the privately-owned stock of perpetually affordable housing; 2) the number of housing units that have been rehabilitated using public funds; and, 3) the degree of residential security enjoyed by Burlington’s most vulnerable citizens because of various public initiatives. During the period 1989-1991, CEDO’s nonprofit partners added 566 units of perpetually affordable housing to their inventories. In that same period, CEDO provided low-interest loans for the repair and rehabilitation of 92 units of housing, including 18 units for the homeless. CEDO provided grants for painting 18 buildings (which include 32 units) and for making accessibility improvements in 8 units. CEDO also secured $1.2 million in funding for the substantial rehab of 336 units.