News

Hotel-to-housing project on drawing board

Town Place Suites Marriott sign with hotel in background

Housing Trust to acquire Marriott property on Zephyr Road

BY JASON STARR

Observer staff

One of Williston’s hotels will be converted in the coming year to rent-controlled apartments that are affordable for those earning less than Chittenden County’s median income, with other units set aside for people transitioning out of homelessness.

State and federal funding distributed by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will help the Champlain Housing Trust purchase the TownePlace Suites by Marriott on Zephyr Road. The conversion will require minimal exterior work and some interior renovations, said Champlain Housing Trust Community Relations Director Chris Donnelly, including combining hotel rooms to create larger living spaces. The apartments will be a mix of one-bedroom units and smaller studios.

The hotel opened in 1999.

“It’s not often that we’re able to add 72 apartments all at once in such a short time frame,” Donnelly said. “It will be a great addition to affordable housing in the area, because there is just not a lot.

“It’s a great location, too,” he added, noting the proximity to grocery stores, employment opportunities and transit service in Taft Corners. “People want to live there.”

The need for affordable housing is illustrated by Champlain Housing Trust’s wait list for rent-controlled apartments. According to Donnelly, the organization has received about 1,300 applications since the beginning of this year with only about 60 vacancies available.

“The waiting list is long,” he said. “There is a real need for affordable apartments.”

The Champlain Housing Trust has a change-of-use application with the town’s Development Review Board on the agenda for an Aug. 24 meeting.

More funding will be required through the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, Donnelly said. Interior renovations are expected to begin in December.

People who earn 80 percent or less of the Chittenden County median income of $67,200 are eligible to apply.

That amounts to a $53,760 annual salary or $25.85 an hour. Priority will be given to those who earn 60 percent or less of the median income, which equates to $40,320 a year or $19.38 an hour.

About half of the 72 apartments will be reserved to help people transition out of homelessness, with rents capped at 30 percent of income. In cases where a person is unemployed, the apartment will be offered rent free, Donnelly said.

The Champlain Housing Trust has converted about eight other hotels into affordable housing in recent years.

The funding for the Williston hotel conversion is part of a larger package ($53.8 million) from the Housing and Conservation Board that comes via the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this year.

“We are really trying to solve the big housing challenges in the region,” Donnelly said.

Other hotel-to-housing projects undertaken with the funding this year in Chittenden County include two motels in Shelburne and the Ho-Hum Motel on Williston Road in South Burlington. Funding will also be used to turn a vacant building at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester into housing.

“In response to unprecedented need and rising prices,” said Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Executive Director Gus Seeling, “VHCB will invest … funds to create and rehabilitate 288 apartments, 50 shelter beds and 51 homeownership opportunities in communities around the state, both for households experiencing homelessness that have been living in motels during the pandemic and for moderate-income Vermonters struggling to find housing they can afford.”

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