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Housing for Everyone Law Project

The Housing for Everyone Law Project (HELP) started in 2020 with these goals:

  • as long as the VERAP and RUERA rent assistance programs were available, prevent non-payment evictions by helping tenants access rent assistance
  • prevent unfair evictions by assuring due process, and
  • reach out to all tenants brought to court for eviction; gain an understanding of the prevalence and causes of eviction.

Causes of eviction in Vermont

Since 2020, we have gathered data and personal stories regarding the current causes of eviction in Vermont.

  1. Vermont has had a housing shortage since before the pandemic.
  2. Since January 2020, property prices have risen 45%.
  3. By July 2022, average rent statewide had increased 40%. Subsistence income did not increase. Vulnerable Vermonters could not keep up with rent payments and they faced eviction.
  4. Between 2020 and 2022, property sales to investor-owners increased from 7% to 17%. Investor-owners bought rental properties to take advantage of the ability to make money, while the market pushes rents joltingly upward.
  5. Tenants with subsidy vouchers have been evicted to clear the way for profitable property sales and higher rents. These tenants could not find anywhere to move and use their vouchers. Lease-up rates for new vouchers dropped from above 70% to below 25%.
  6. When rent assistance programs were in effect in SFY 2022, the number of evictions filed annually was reduced by 23%, and many filed evictions were resolved with the tenant keeping their home.

Since July 2022:

  • HELP has opened cases for about half of all evictions filed in Vermont. In 60% of those cases, our legal help has given tenants options and time when faced with being forced from their homes.
  • Data from our clients show that 68.5% of evictions have been for non-payment of rent. If back-rent assistance of $5,000 or less were still available, tenancies could be saved. Vulnerable residents could stay in their homes. However, Vermont chose to end the rent assistance programs for most tenants in October 2022.
  • The percentage of eviction cases filed in court for “no cause” has increased. A significant percentage of no-cause evictions impact the lowest income tenants, even if they owe no rent.
  • Rental unit vacancy is at an all-time low in Vermont. There is no housing to be found.

Effects of eviction

Eviction upends the lives of people who are housed and want to keep their home, but are forced to leave by a legal process. Evictions can create enormous stress, health issues, and lasting legal and housing problems. When we represent tenants, we make sure they have due process in the eviction process.

As a social determinate of health, “evictions are considered by experts to be among the most deleterious sources of housing instability in that they often come about suddenly, create extreme financial strain and stress, and carry lasting legal consequences that can preclude families from accessing quality, affordable housing in the future.” Source: Jacky M. Jennings, PhD, MPH and Kathryn M. Leifheit, MSPH

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