Susan Minter (Executive Director, Capstone Community Action) shared with the House General & Housing Committee on Thursday a report by the Community Action Team reiterating that housing was needed. Minter gave a very similar presentation to the one given in the Senate regarding S.100. The same risks were identified as in the Senate the same powerful stories that demonstrated the need for more housing.
She reiterated, again, that there was no focus on Act 250 or business issues addressed in the bill. Even so, Minter supported the bill as it was.
Next, Legislative Counsel did a quick presentation of an amendment from Representative Elder. The amendment would raise some of the Act 250 triggers, including the current 5-5-5 rule which would be raised to 25-5-5. The 5-5-5 rule triggers an Act 250 rule if a developer builds five units of housing over a five year time span within a five mile radius. It would also prevent municipal zoning from making jurisdictional determinations on housing projects with four units or fewer.
They then continued to do a quick walk-through of latest changes S.100. The Human Rights section was being added back in after the Senate Appropriations removed that section. A new section intended to prevent evictions was added, as was a new section for a housing study. The final change was to increase the property valuation limit from $1M to $2M for generational homebuyers.
A Heated discussion took place with Committee members expressing discomfort that they were being asked to vote on an entire bill rather than just on the portion of the bill that they had heard testimony on. They spoke against this process and one representative became emotional express how this was "very wrong" and how it was something that was "against her will." However, in the end, she went with the apparent “party” vote in the Committee.
Representative James attempted to say how she had been there for a long time and "knew the process and how it worked" and then Representative Elder powerfully and articulately reiterated that he was there "just as long" and this "blinders on" approach was the "worst process in the entire legislature." He went on to give examples of how the process was "broken" and sometimes "it needed to be broken to get what Committees needed in the moment." As the conversation progressed a number of intelligent and ethical positions were expressed against voting on just the portion S.100 they had taken testimony on. This cut across party lines with articulate arguments around House rules and also Housing policy in support of their constituents and Vermonters.
When the the Committee finally got to a vote, it was 8-4-0 in favor.