Former South Burlington motel converted to 20 apartments for people exiting homelessness
This story, by Report for America corps 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 motel on Williston Road in 2020 using $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds and operated the building as a quarantine and isolation option largely for unhoused Vermonters. Now, CHT is converting it into the Braeburn Apartments: affordable, long-term rental units designated for people who currently lack permanent housing.
“I’m thrilled to imagine that there are people who will go from living in a car, or a tent, or couchsurfing to a really beautiful apartment,” said Helen Riehle, chair of the South Burlington City Council, at an open house for the new apartments on Monday.
Tenants will begin moving in over the next few weeks and will be referred to the housing trust through Chittenden County’s coordinated entry system for people experiencing homelessness, said Michael Monte, the trust’s chief executive officer. Residents will pay 30% of their income toward rent, and the Burlington Housing Authority will cover the remainder. Resident support services will be available onsite.
The project is the latest in a series of hotel and motel conversions Champlain Housing Trust has undertaken in Chittenden County over the last decade. The cost of retrofitting an existing building like the former Ho-Hum — even when it requires installing kitchens and other upgrades needed to turn the motel rooms into apartments — pales in comparison to new construction, Monte said.
These converted units cost around $150,000 to $160,000 to build, per unit, Monte said — compared to over $400,000 to build new.
“The notion that we’re taking this kind of facility — and [are] able to produce it at such a low cost, and in such a quick way — showcases the opportunity that’s out there,” Monte said.
The $1.64 million used to convert the former motel into apartments was provided by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the National Housing Trust and South Burlington’s funding allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The new apartments will put a small dent in 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 called the housing need in South Burlington “enormous.” She wants to see the city continue rehabbing properties and creating more housing options close to services, schools, transit and jobs — like the new Braeburn Apartments.
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.