By Councilor Jim Duncan
I serve as the City Council Liaison to the Housing Commission, which is charged with helping Council and staff "ensure a mix of quality housing that maintains and enhances Winooski’s unique sense of place and supports the needs of the entire community".
Last month, the Commission further explored data and analysis related to signs of gentrification in our community and the overall condition of our housing and rental markets - check out the draft report, minutes from the last meeting, or my previous update for background. City Staff analyzed data on recent home sales, cost burdens for owners and renters, income distributions, building permits and code violations. Based on this analysis, there are no additional signs of gentrification, and the data suggest that Winooski is providing a mix of housing that is relatively affordable for owners and renters compared to the rest of Chittenden County, with median 2018 home prices and median 2018 rental prices below the county average. A further look back at the data shows changes over the past five years do not indicate a cause for immediate concern that our community is gentrifying.
The Commission took a dive into information about code violations in rental properties using data collected by Winooski’s Code Enforcement Department. The department tracks health and safety compliance such as having functioning fire alarms and multiple exits from a building. The highest number of violations were for lead paint, and the Commission asked staff to look into policy options for addressing risks such as these using tools like the Housing Trust Fund. In addition, the commission discussed the low number of renter complaints in 2018 and whether the City could play a role in ensuring renters feel secure in advocating for fixes to health and safety issues. This topic will be revisited at the next Commission meeting, when Fire Chief John Audy may be able to visit to discuss these data further. If you think you are experiencing a violation of the minimum housing standards, you can fill out and mail in or drop off a complaint form, online here (scroll down to "Minimum Housing Complaint Form"). City staff are here to help navigate these issues.
The Housing Commission meets on the 4th Monday each month and meetings are open to the public. The next meeting will take place on Monday, March 23 at 6pm. Please get in touch if you have any input or questions on the work of the Commission – Jim Duncan, firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the Housing Commission and how to get involved, click here.