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Social justice through the power of housing has never been more important than it is right now! One way you can take action for positive change is with a donation to Downstreet in support of equitable opportunities for safe, healthy, and beautiful housing to those who have been marginalized for decades.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
A Message from Our Executive Director
Addressing Climate Change in Vermont
The Impact of Climate Change on People of Color
Downstreet's Contribution to a Sustainable Future
Spotlight on Racial Justice
Join Our Team! We're Hiring!
Attention Landlords! Grant Money Now Available!

Downstreet Updates
Project Updates
Housing News Feed
"While the problem can sometimes seem overwhelming, we can turn things around -- but we must move beyond climate talk to climate action."
Ted Turner

A Few Words from Our Executive Director

Addressing Climate Change in Vermont
Vermont's Global Warming Solutions Act legislation was introduced in January, before the COVID-19 crisis hit Vermont, but State Legislators were determined to pass the bill in response to increasing scientific data that shows immediate action to address climate change is essential. On September 17th, the legislation passed.

Vermont is one of many states taking action to put in place policies and regulations to address climate change in the face of inaction by the Federal Government.

Source: https://www.c2es.org/content/state-climate-policy/

But Vermont is not new to this initiative; Act 250, Vermont’s land use and development law, was enacted in 1970 and established the Vermont Environmental Board. As a result of this legislation, every development and subdivision application is evaluated using detailed standards referred to as the 10 Criteria. According to the State of Vermont, “The 10 Criteria focus on projected impacts on air and water quality, water supplies, traffic, local schools and services, municipal costs, historic and natural resources, including scenic beauty, impacts of growth, and municipal and regional plans.”

In 2012 Vermont introduced its Universal Recycling Law, and just this year, put in place a composting mandate and a ban on plastic bags. In addition to legislative action to curb the use of fossil fuels and lower Vermont’s overall negative impact on the environment, many nonprofit organizations and initiatives have been working toward climate justice as well. Energy Independent Vermont is a growing coalition of environmental organizations dedicated to address climate change in Vermont.
How Climate Change Disproportionately Impacts People of Color
In a recent interview with VPR about the passing of Vermont's Global Warming Solutions Act, Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas saidThe COVID-19 challenges really have uncovered a lot of the systemic inequalities that we notice in our world and have really uncovered a lot of vulnerabilities. And what is clear through that is that Vermont is not ready to withstand another Tropical Storm Irene. We know that we need to do everything that we can do to build resilience within our communities. And that is a really big part of this [Global Warming Solutions Act] bill.”

And she's right. The inequities experienced by people of color and lower-income households don't end with things like access to healthy food, education, jobs, housing, and transportation -- climate change disproportionately affects these populations as well. Specifically, in regard to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), centuries of systemic racism through laws, policies and practices have placed these Americans in an especially vulnerable position.

Penn State meteorologist Gregory Jenkins told The Washington Post that “Racism is ‘inexorably’ linked to climate change because it dictates who benefits from activities that produce planet-warming gases and who suffers most from the consequences.” To make matters worse, those who experience more of an impact have fewer resources available to address those impacts.

Put another way, Elizabeth Yeampierre, a racial and environmental justice activist, explains in a Yale Environment 360 article that With the arrival of slavery comes a re-purposing of the land, chopping down of trees, disrupting water systems and other ecological systems that comes with supporting the effort to build a capitalist society and to provide resources for the privileged, using the bodies of black people to facilitate that.” She goes on to suggest that throughout our nation’s history, people of color were denied access to power and wealth, forcing them to provide much of the labor needed to build a society that was designed to marginalize them. Yeampierre explained that, when natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina devastate entire cities, “land speculation land grabs” spark new investments that never would have happened when people of color populated them. This is part of what contributes to the gentrification of historically Black cultural centers like New Orleans.

From a housing perspective, neighborhoods that were disenfranchised due to redlining have higher temperatures and poorer air quality as a result of more pavement and less trees compared to their more affluent, white suburban counterparts. This contributes to higher instances of health problems such as asthma within communities of color. The journal Science published a study that found that the most economic harm from climate change will affect the nation’s poorest counties, many of which are home to people of color.

The evidence goes on and on, but the message is consistent: systemic racism and climate change go hand-in-hand. We must work to address both, because addressing one without the other will only create more of both.
Downstreet's Contribution to a Sustainable Future
Downstreet is committed to social and environmental justice, and we do everything we can to support and enhance Vermont’s efforts to reduce the impact we have on our environment. In our day-to-day operations, we follow “green” practices that were officially established years ago when we became recognized as a NeighborWorks Green Organization. In our real estate development work, we focus on the renovation or replacement of existing buildings for our projects, rather than building on undeveloped land, whenever we can. And, we provide our residents with information and support for reducing their energy usage.

But in spite of all of our State’s efforts to reduce waste in landfills, to keep our water sources clean, and to eliminate single-use products like plastic bags, one of the biggest contributors to climate change, especially in Vermont, is fossil fuel emissions from transportation. Being a rural state, many of us rely on our vehicles to get us from place to place, and that adds up to a lot of greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere. This highlights the need for better access to public transportation in our state, in order to provide an alternative to private vehicle usage. This was one of the factors considered in the development of our Taylor Street Apartments in Montpelier, which sits atop the Montpelier Transit Center. Placing high-quality, mixed-income apartments close to downtown Montpelier shops and restaurants, with easy access to train and bus service just made sense for us. Combined with the building’s net zero energy status, the project emphasizes our commitment to a healthy planet and to providing access to transportation for our residents.

In addition to Taylor Street Apartments, many of our properties include domestic solar hot water heat, wood pellet boilers, Nest thermostats to maximize energy efficiency, and other environmentally conscious features. To learn more about our real estate development projects, have a look at our website.
 
SPOTLIGHT ON RACIAL JUSTICE
We all know that systemic racism exists, but how many of us have a solid understanding of the specific policies and practices that have consistently marginalized people of color in the U.S.? A push for thoughtful consideration of key events in our country’s history is not only timely but also extremely important for our staff as we continue to promote equity with our delivery of social justice through the power of housing.

At our September staff meeting, we dove into the history of systemic racism in the housing industry. Our staff was put into four breakout groups, and each learned about and discussed a different topic: The Great Migration, Redlining, The Chicago Freedom Movement, and the Community Reinvestment Act. We then came together as a complete group for a brief summary of each topic, and a discussion about how these historical events have impacted the work we do today.

Our staff was engaged and empathetic throughout these conversations, and we look forward to continued education and discussions about racial justice in Vermont.
Ta-Nehisi Coates to Address “Racial Equity and Housing Justice During and After COVID-19” on October 6!

NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition for a conversation on “Racial Equity and Housing Justice during and after COVID-19” on October 6, at 1 pm ET. Register today for this live-stream event. Be sure to submit questions for Ta-Nehisi through the registration page or via social media using #RacialEquityandCOVID

 
Recommended Reading

Whether your journey has just begun or you are on your way to understanding your relationship with racial justice, there are some excellent books written by Black authors that we'd like to recommend. Each has a link to purchase the book online from a Black-owned bookstore.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Subject matter: Systemic Racism in Our Justice System

How to Be an Anti-Racist
Author: Ibram X. Kendi
Subject matter: Civil Rights, Personal Memoir, Discrimination and Race Relations

Me and White Supremacy
Author: Layla Saad
Subject matter: Discrimination and Race Relations, Prejudice and Racism, Minority Studies

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
Author: Carol Anderson
Subject Matter: U.S. History, Race Relations, Precjudice and Racism

JOIN OUR TEAM! WE'RE HIRING!!

Downstreet Updates

NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center

Our amazing HomeOwnership Center team continues to administer the Vermont State Rental Rehab Program, a grant program that provides repair funds to landlords with vacant rental units that have code violations. Since the program launched about a month ago, our HomeOwnership Center staff has reviewed 30 applications and has begun or completed processing the 14 applications that met the program requirements. Once the repairs on these units are completed, the program requires property owners to work with the Continuum of Care to attempt to find suitable renters, with priority given to landlords that re-house the homeless in these units.

 

Support & Services at Home (SASH)
Our SASH (Support & Services at Home) staff has been doing their best to engage their participants who are at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus, and therefore are experiencing more isolation than most. With our Evergreen Place Senior Center closed due to COVID-19, organizing something as simple as an ice cream social proved challenging. However, with the help of SASH Coordinator Kenneth Russell, the Mad River Valley Seniors pulled it off with great success! The gathering was held on September 12th, over six months since these older Vermonters had been together as a group.

Project Updates

TINY "MIGHTY" HOUSE PROJECT

We are collaborating with Washington County Mental Health Services and Norwich University's School of Architecture and Art to design and construct two tiny homes that will provide permanent, supportive housing to formerly homeless individuals. The first home has been finished and placed in Barre City. Additionally, an existing house next to the tiny home lot has been renovated and convertede to a two-apartment multi-family home. The second tiny home is being constructed this summer.
JULY UPDATE:
Construction on the 2nd Tiny House has started back up again at Norwich and the students will continue to work on it until completion. We plan to schedule to move the house to its final location in Barre City sometime this month.
STIMSON AND GRAVES RENOVATIONS
 
Our Stimson and Graves property in Waterbury is due for some capital work! The work includes window replacements, mechanical upgrades, and apartment renovations, all while tenants continue to reside in the building. COVID-19 caused the project to pause in March as accommodations were made to keep the older Vermonters who live in the building safe. After adjustments were made to the building to ensure the safety of both the residents and the contractors, construction resumed earlier this summer. The project team includes S2 Architecture as the architect and Naylor and Breen as the construction manager.
JULY UPDATE:

We are in Phase 4 of construction, which is expected to be completed soon. We ran into a hiccup with the boiler replacement, but we were able to provide temporary heat while the problem was resolved. On the outside of the building, patching and siding repairs are complete, and exterior painting has begun.
Housing Newsfeed
A look at housing and social justice across the country.
National Federal Eviction Moratorium
From the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC): A federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) took effect September 4, extending vital protections to tens of millions of renters at risk of eviction for nonpayment of rent during the global pandemic. In order to be protected under the federal moratorium, qualified renters facing eviction must take action by presenting a signed declaration to their landlord.

The order would defer to states like Vermont that have stronger protections in place, and does not stop states from adding additional, stronger protections beyond the federal order. A Vermont state law "stays" (pauses) all evictions until 30 days after the Governor ends the COVID-19 statewide emergency declaration. Tenants do not have to file any certification to be protected under Vermont's laws. However, attorneys from Vermont Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont are exploring whether the new federal order could be helpful to Vermonters. Read more about how both orders apply to Vermont here.
Three Local Policy Innovations that Promote Inclusive, Equitable Mixed-Income Communities
Making inclusion and equity a reality in more American metropolitan areas is possible. Doing so requires innovations in local, regional, and state policies related to mixed-income communities.
Donate Now
Every donation to Downstreet gives more families the opportunity to create a safe, healthy, stable home. Give a gift to Downstreet today.
 
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