A former South Burlington motel has been converted into 20 apartments for people exiting homelessness
This story, by Report for America staff member Carly Berlin, was produced through a partnership between VTDigger and Vermont Public.
Twenty new apartments will soon house people exiting homelessness at the site of the former Ho-Hum Motel in South Burlington.
Champlain Housing Trust acquired the hotel on Williston Road in 2020 using $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds and has operated the building as a quarantine and isolation option largely for unhoused Vermonters. Now, Chitang is turning them into Braeburn Apartments: affordable, long-term rental units for people who currently lack permanent housing.
Helen Riehl, president of the South Burlington City Council, said at an open house for the new apartments on Monday.
The tenants will begin moving in over the next few weeks and will be referred to the housing fund through Chittenden County’s Coordinated Entry System for People Experiencing Homelessness, said Michael Monte, the fund’s CEO. Residents will pay 30% of their income for rent, and the Burlington Housing Authority will cover the rest. Resident support services will be available on site.
The project is the latest in a series of hotel and motel conversions that Champlain Housing Trust has undertaken in Chittenden County over the past decade. The cost of rehabbing an existing building like the former Ho-Hum — even when it requires installing kitchens and other upgrades required to convert motel rooms into apartments — pales in comparison to new construction, Monte said.
These converted units cost about $150,000 to $160,000 to build per unit, compared to more than $400,000 to build new units, Monte said.
“The idea that we are taking this type of facility — and (that) we are able to produce it at such a low cost, in such a rapid manner — demonstrates the opportunity that is there,” Monte said.
The $1.64 million used to convert the former motel into apartments was provided by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the National Housing Fund and the South Burlington funding allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The new apartments will reduce the need for affordable housing in Vermont, which has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. Vacancy rates for available rentals are particularly low in Chittenden County.
Riehle described the housing needs in South Burlington as “enormous.” She wants to see the city continue to rehabilitate properties and create more housing options close to services, schools, transportation and jobs — like the new Braeburn apartments.