Mayor Weinberger Highlights Progress on City’s Quality of Life Initiatives, Invites Community Input on Next St eps

Encourages Participation in Upcoming Neighborhood Project Interactive Community Open House

Burlington, VT – Today Mayor Miro Weinberger encouraged residents to attend an upcoming Neighborhood Project Interactive Community Open House on December 12 and highlighted the City of Burlington’s progress on longstanding noise complaint, landlord accountability, intoxication and disorderly conduct, and other quality of life issues. The City will be hosting the Neighborhood Project Open House in collaboration with the University of Vermont (UVM), Champlain College, and Preservation Burlington from 3:00 to 7:00pm on December 12 in Contois Auditorium to enable resident feedback on the City’s continued work in near-campus neighborhoods. The overarching goal of Neighborhood Project is to build on recent successes and develop with community input an actionable strategy and toolkit of policies and programs for neighborhood stabilization in historic neighborhoods. The Open House will allow experts selected by UVM, Champlain, Preservation Burlington, and the City to share their findings with the public and the public to weigh in on potential new tools and strategies that could help improve residents’ quality of life, as well as to suggest different ideas.

“Thanks to the hard work of our partners, impressive student leadership, and strong resident voices, we have made real progress and have seen a dramatic reduction in calls for service for quality of life issues by 42 percent over the last four years in the area having more than 25 percent student residents,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “We have more work to do, and I am eager to hear residents’ thoughts about the new ideas that come from the expert review of national best practices to see what additional steps we can take to make our historic neighborhoods even better places to live.”

Neighborhood Project enters next phase
The Neighborhood Project is one of 22 proposals contained in Burlington’s Housing Action Plan (HAP), adopted by the City Council in October 2015. The HAP called for hiring consultants to create a Neighborhood Stabilization Program known as The Neighborhood Project (TNP), an overall strategy and toolkit of policies and programs to improve quality of life in near-campus neighborhoods. TNP is a partnership between the City, UVM, Champlain College and Preservation Burlington.

On Tuesday, December 12 from 3:00 – 7:00pm in Contois Auditorium, the experts selected by the partnership will present their findings to the public, and the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on actions to enhance quality of life initiatives, including measures to slow down conversion of single family homes to rentals, actions to convert selected, primarily student rental properties to non-student housing while maintaining affordability, and to suggest additional strategies and projects that might continue to improve Burlingtonians’ quality of life in years to come. Community input on these ideas will be crucial in shaping the City’s outlook regarding the implementation of any of these approaches.

The Interactive Community Open House will invite community feedback on initiatives including:

· Enhancing quality of life initiatives, such as (i) building on current renter education programs (ii) clarifying, simplifying and communicating the City’s existing qualify of life tools and (iii) reviewing ‘fair warning’ policies.

· Containing and slowing down conversion of single family homes to rentals, with actions such as (i) more student housing on or adjacent to campuses (ii) creation of a property acquisition fund to acquire single homes that have not yet become student rentals and (iii) instituting an employer assisted housing program.

· Converting selected primarily student rental properties to non-student housing while maintaining affordability. Actions will include creating a targeted rehab loan program and targeting program funds for rehabbing historic properties.

Steady progress over time

TNP seeks to build on some recent successes detailed below. Over the past five years, the City of Burlington has worked with UVM, Champlain College, student leaders, the Burlington Police Department, and Code Enforcement to promote safety and quality of life in near-campus neighborhoods. These efforts have taken a variety of forms, and in combination have resulted in substantial reductions in noise complaints, greater landlord accountability, and the growing usage of SeeClickFix as a tool for residents to identify quality of life problems and have them quickly addressed. The community Open House on December 12 will help the City get feedback on new ideas and additional areas for work.

· Reducing Noise Complaints: The introduction of noise patrols staffed by Burlington Police officers and supported by a financial contribution from the University of Vermont has contributed to the steady reduction of noise complaints from a high in 2012. Between the 2012/2013 academic year and the 2016/2017 academic year, calls for service including noise, intoxication, and disorderly conduct, fell by 42 percent. Officer allocation is driven in part by data collected and analyzed collaboratively by UVM, the Burlington Police, and Code Enforcement.

· Enhancing the City’s Code Enforcement effort: The City has also made a number of changes to its overall Code Enforcement policies and allocation of resources to improve services to homeowners, renters, and landlords. These changes include:

o Improving practices and management to ensure that all Burlington rental units are inspected within the timeline required by the ordinance.

o Amending the ordinance to allow Code Enforcement to focus its efforts on problematic properties by giving Code Enforcement the discretion to inspect well-maintained properties less frequently and poorly maintained rental units more often. Properties with major problems are inspected again in a year, rather than the traditional three years, to make sure issues addressed as part of the inspection do not crop up again.

o Creating a tiered fine system so that problematic properties and renters will face escalating charges.

o Identifying landlords with chronically problematic properties and engaging these individuals directly with sustained attention from Code Enforcement and the BPD (and having the Mayor, Police Chief, and City Councilors, make direct calls to the property owner to signal the City’s focus).

· Enabling residents to “SeeClickFix”: Since the City launched its use of the “SeeClickFix” app in 2012, Mayor Weinberger and Code Enforcement Director Bill Ward have encouraged Burlingtonians to use the app to report quality of life issues such as potholes, graffiti, found syringes, or excess trash on the sidewalk using their mobile phones or computers. Burlington has consistently ranked in the top 50 out of the 500 cities that use the service. The City has 1,035, registered users who over five years have reported 9,351 issues. In 2017, users reported 2,801 issues, of which 2,401 have been closed. Issues are acknowledged within an average of 1.2 days and resolved within an average of 14.6 days.

* Please see more information on the Neighborhood Project and Open House here


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