Affordable housing advocates criticize budget cuts

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(Host) Advocates for affordable housing and land conservation are criticizing Governor Douglas’s proposed budget cuts.

They say the governor’s $5 million dollar reduction for the Housing and Conservation Board means valuable projects will never get off the ground.

Kenn Sassarossi of Housing Vermont is co-chairman of a coalition that’s fighting the budget cuts. He spoke at a news conference yesterday as the coalition displayed a list of dozens of projects that are threatened.

(Sassarossi) "We might have understood a modest cut or a reduction of the 4.5 percent increase that was proposed in last year’s appropriation bill. But we’re looking at a cut of one-third to the funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. That means that one out of three of these projects that you see that have been in the pipeline for some time will not get funded."

(Host) Douglas says his proposed cut still leaves $10 million dollars available for the Housing and Conservation Board. He said he built his budget around projecting the most vulnerable in society.

(Douglas) "That means saving Medicaid first and foremost, ensuring that Vermonters of modest means have access to the health care services that they’ve been entitled to, ensuring that disabled children have the services that they need, older Vermonters who need pharmaceutical support as costs continue to rise. And I really believe that has to be the top priorities in a period of limited resources."

(Host) But Elisabeth Kulas of the Rutland Community Land Trust says affordable housing projects serve the same people as Medicaid. She says cuts are shortsighted.

(Kulas) "So it’s really just taking resources that are providing a roof over their head and taking it to provide medical care. And it’s proven fact that when someone does not have a place to live and they’re camping out summer and winter, they have additional medical needs. So really aren’t we increasing the cost and demand for medical care if we’re not providing affordable housing?"

(Host) Environmentalists said the cuts in conservation programs undermine Douglas’s goal of using forest land to absorb greenhouse gases.

They questioned how the forest could soak up carbon dioxide if it wasn’t protected from development.

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