Winooski officials and housing groups are calling on lawmakers to enact tougher protections for tenants following a prominent landlord’s plan to evict 24 low-income families, mostly refugees, from an apartment complex. local apartments.

In a March 8 letter to lawmakers, city officials including Mayor Kristine Lott and School Board President Tori Cleiland said the state needs policies to prevent future mass evictions.

“Residents have little recourse when private landlords determine that economic conditions favor displacement and increased rents,” the letter said.

No more VPRs and Seven Days: Bove brothers plan to evict low-income refugee families in Winooski – and raise rents

In early February, Rick and Mark Bove sent eviction notices to all tenants of their Winooski property, telling them to vacate their homes by the end of June. The reviews said the owners were planning “major renovations”.

The evictions took place several months after a VPR and Seven days the investigation revealed substandard living conditions and persistent breaches of the health code in the Boves rental empire. The Winooski property had one of the worst records, including widespread cockroach infestations dating back to 2016.

Mark Bove, in a statement last month, described work on the property as a “top-down” renovation and said that once completed the complex “will most likely transition to market-priced accommodation”.

No more VPR and Seven Days: Cockroaches and broken locks: Mark and Rick Bove’s growing empire of affordable rentals vexes code enforcers

Winooski officials, in their letter this week, urged lawmakers to pass measures to preserve affordable housing and protect vulnerable tenants, including relocation assistance if a landlord decides to evict tenants due to a renovation. They also said private landlords and developers should be required to keep housing affordable if they receive “substantial public funds”.

The letter came as a Senate committee introduced a bill that would set aside millions of dollars for housing development, including $20 million for the rehabilitation of rental housing that has fallen into disrepair.

In the month since tenants of the Winoosk property in Boves received eviction notices, local authorities and housing advocates have raced to find alternative homes in the historically tight housing market from Vermont.

Amila Merdzanovic, director of the Vermont chapter of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said Vermont Edition this week that his organization is struggling to find available accommodation.

“We are looking for housing on the open market,” she said. “Being able to find an affordable apartment was really difficult.”

Other groups are trying to keep residents in their current homes. The Champlain Housing Trust and the Winooski Housing Authority contacted the Boves to see if they would be willing to sell the property. But so far there’s been no progress on the sale, said Katherine Decarreau, executive director of the Winooski Housing Authority.

“These are really tough deals to get done and they don’t normally happen in three months,” she said.

Do you have questions, comments or advice? Send us a message or contact the journalist Liam Elder-Connors @lseconnors.