VT Digger | December 1, 2016

Council recommends fighting poverty with affordable housing

One of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s special commissions says the state can eradicate poverty faster if it dedicates more money to building affordable housing and funding rental assistance programs.

For the second year in a row, the Council on Pathways from Poverty has proposed a new $2 per night occupancy fee on people staying in hotels and motels so the state can use the money revenue to fight homelessness. The measure didn’t pass in the last biennium. ...

Chris Curtis, an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid who serves as co-chair of the council, said low-budget motels are already subsidizing homelessness programs because they accept state-funded vouchers that pay for people in housing crises to stay in the motels.

He said those motels are sharing the burden of addressing homelessness by accepting the vouchers, but larger and higher-end hotels are not. He said if all hotels and motels had to collect the fee, the whole industry would be involved in ending homelessness.

The $2 nightly occupancy fee the council is proposing would raise between $11 million and $12 million per year. Curtis said that out-of-state tourists would pay 94 percent of the total.

“We hear over and over again that Vermonters do not have any additional taxing capacity,” Curtis said. “This is a fee that would not fall on Vermonters. It would primarily fall on out-of-staters.”