The financial and human cost of the current home buyout program

The financials:

Current annual property tax revenue from the 39 parcels eligible for acquisition listed on the BTV website is $186,985. Should BTV purchase these parcels based on outdated data, the loss in tax revenue would amount to $163,123.54 total. On the City side alone, the annual property tax revenue from them would drop from $90,115 to $23,861.46, assuming that the total tax rate for FY 2018 is projected to be .4946, or a reduction of $66,253.54 per year, which represents a 73.5% loss of revenue for the City. For the State Education Fund, this would equate to a loss of $96,870 per year, or a 100% loss in tax revenue from these properties. Overall, this would be an extraordinary loss for the City.  It is especially grievous to contemplate such a loss knowing that the City has already lost 97 homes and accompanying tax dollars through the previous buyout and that the homes’ eligibility for purchase under the BTV Part 150 program is based on obsolete levels of VTANG operations unlikely ever to re-occur.

For some perspective, $163,000 could cover two new hires in the City, and, in budget discussions, this sum represents just under a 1% tax increase for the rest of the City’s residents.

The human and social cost:

School-age children are likely to reside in these 37 or 39 housing units.  Should these housing units be purchased and demolished, these children’s families are likely to have to move out of South Burlington (due to the scarcity of affordable housing in the City).  State aid for education is based on the number of children attending the City’s public schools.  Thus, the loss of these 37 or 39 housing units would cause this additional loss of revenue to the School District. Additionally, the Chamberlin neighborhood is home to Chamberlin Elementary School whose enrollment numbers have fallen ten percent, from 253 to 229, since 2010. The School’s Principal notes that the lack of affordable housing and the state of the current economy might also explain the increased number of Chamberlin students living in multiple-generation households.

The scarcity of affordable housing is the source of major hardship for the one in three South Burlington households, which spend more than thirty percent of household income on housing. Of these one in three households, thirty-six percent pay more than fifty percent of household income on housing. The housing affordability standard is paying thirty percent less of household income on housing (these data are from the 2013 South Burlington Affordable Housing Task Force Report). The loss of an additional 37 or 39 housing units in the most affordable neighborhood in the City will add to the number of households whose budgets are stressed by the scarcity of affordable housing in the City.

Equally, if not even more adverse, will be the negative effect on the vitality and psyche of the Chamberlin Neighborhood should it experience the loss of an additional 37 or 39 housing units and the families residing there.

Any advantage that might accrue to BTV from acquisition of these homes in the next three to five years is far outweighed by the harm that the City of South Burlington would experience as a result of BTV’s purchase of these homes.