The Champlain Housing Trust is converting a Marriott hotel in Williston into 72 apartments for formerly homeless and low-income Vermonters.
The housing group purchased the TownePlace Suites on Tuesday for $13.4 million using federal COVID-19 stimulus money and state funds. The 72 studio and one-bedroom apartments are expected to open by next summer.
Affordable housing is a critical need in Chittenden County, where rentals are scarce and prices are high. The National Low Income Housing Coalition said Vermonters need to make more than $23 an hour to afford a typical two-bedroom rental. Renters in Vermont make, on average, about $14 per hour.
The apartments at the former TownePlace Suites — to be renamed Zephyr Place — will rent for $850 to $1,050 a month, including utilities. That’s about 20 percent off the fair market rent for the region, said Chris Donnelly, CHT's community relations director. He expects most to be rented by single people or couples. The complex is off Route 2A, not far from the intersection with Route 2.
Donnelly said 38 of the 72 apartments will be designated for people who are coming out of homelessness. Another 26 will be for households that earn up to 60 percent of the median income for the area — about $20 an hour for a single-person household — and the last eight will be for those who earn up to 80 percent of the local median, or about $26 an hour.
Demand will be high. Champlain Housing Trust gets 200 to 300 applications for rental housing every month.
“It’s not going to solve the housing problem,” Donnelly said. “But any day we talk about adding 72 apartments is a good day.”
Affordable housing has been in short supply for years in Chittenden County and many other parts of the state. County-wide, more than 1,000 new apartments are expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of next year. But only about 20 percent of that housing will be affordable, which many groups define as costing about one-third of a family’s income.
A regional group called Building Homes Together is looking for ways to develop more affordable housing, as many as 750 units each year, in northwestern Vermont.
State officials have tried for years to ease the housing crunch. Lawmakers in 2017 passed a $37 million bond to promote the construction of more affordable housing around the state. And the legislature and Gov. Phil Scott's administration directed $144 million in COVID-19 relief money toward affordable housing this year. That’s where Champlain Housing Trust got the money to buy the hotel.
Donnelly said he doesn’t know how much it will cost to renovate the property, but it doesn’t need a lot of work. The hotel owners filled in the pool years ago, and CHT plans to renovate some kitchens, remove some walls and build a sidewalk. A social worker will be present during the day to help residents find state services, and a property manager will live in the building.
The hotel is the seventh that the Housing Trust has purchased in the last eight years. It’s operating two as temporary shelter for people who are homeless or need a place to quarantine, Donnelly said. The others have been converted to permanent housing.
Correction, December 5, 2021: A previous version of this story used the word "of" instead of "off" when comparing the rents to fair market costs.