Now that we’re within shouting distance of adjournment, it is belatedly dawning on the Legislature that something terrible is about to happen. After months of studiously avoiding the implications of ending the motel voucher program this summer, many lawmakers have awakened as if from a deep slumber, looked around, and realized that the state is about to evict more than 2,000 people in one fell swoop. Well, two fell swoops, one at the end of May and the other at the end of June.
This afternoon, the House General & Housing Committee devoted an entire hour to some heartfelt wailing and gnashing of teeth. (The second hour of this two-hour hearing archived on YouTube.) Members got a statistical breakdown of the situation from Scott administration officials (downloadable from the committee’s “Documents” list) and then spent some time making statements like “This is awful. Isn’t there something we can do?”
It was not an inspiring performance. This committee has been involved in discussions about emergency housing and the voucher program. Two of its members helped devise a budget item that sunsetted the voucher program, and that item was then presented to the entire committee. There was testimony from people in the housing advocacy community who made clear the direness of the situation and who presented well-crafted, doable solutions. Members seemed to have absorbed little to nothing of those presentations.
If there’s anyone on this earth who could understandably be Sick Of This Shit, it’s Anne Sosin, pictured above in a space that Room Rater wold give at least eight out of 10. (“Nice window, background not too busy, solid but unpretentious bookshelf.”) Sosin has gone from arch-critic of Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid policies to interim head of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, where she’s taken on the thankless task of developing plans to tackle the housing crisis that House Democrats routinely ignore.
On Thursday morning, Sosin appeared before the House General & Housing Committee with an articulate, well-researched and professional presentation on why it makes moral, political, and financial sense to address our crisis of housing insecurity. Her presentation was entitled “The Cost of Inaction on Homelessness and Eviction.” (Video available here; Sosin begins at the two-minute mark. Her presentation is downloadable here.)
The committee listened politely and sent her away. And within roughly 12 hours, the full House had approved a budget that ignored her testimony.
In other words, the cake was baked before Sosin got into the kitchen. Her appearance was nothing but window dressing.
(I’ll also note that committee chair Tom Stevens mispronounced her last name, which betrays a certain lack of engagement, especially since this wasn’t her first appearance before his committee.)