The South Burlington City Council last week gave final approval to use American Rescue Plan Funds for renovations to turn the Ho-Hum Motel on Williston Road into permanently affordable housing.

The council’s approval last week finalizes an agreement that was first made in September with the Champlain Housing Trust, which first purchased the property in 2020 to use as a COVID-19 quarantine space for people who are homeless, people arriving from out of state, and others who needed a place to isolate during the height of the pandemic.

The property will now undergo renovations to establish 20 long-term apartments for people who are homeless — continued efforts by the organization to tackle the growing homeless crisis in the state.

Vermont, according to data published in December by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has the second highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the country, behind only California — but has one of the highest number of people who are unhoused but sheltered.

“We just have to continue to do that while we set up the various resources to get people into permanent affordable housing,” Michael Monte, the chief executive officer of Champlain Housing Trust, said. “I’m not sure if there’s any kind of magical way around this, other than to create more opportunities and more units.”

The agreement finalized by the council awards $300,000 of ARPA funds to assist the housing organization in the renovations of the property at 1660 Williston Road.

That work is expected to begin in early April and should take four to five months to complete, Monte said.

The Ho-Hum Motel was first built in 1951, and currently has 32 rooms, an office and a commercial laundry and maintenance room.

Each of the motel’s two buildings will have 10 studio or one-bedroom apartments, but the height of the building or total footprint will not change.

Monte has said that no one will have to pay more than 30 percent of their income to live in the building’s units.

This will be the Champlain Housing Trust’s ninth motel used as either temporary shelter or affordable housing. The trust leased a second Ho-Hum Motel on Shelburne Road (next to Panera) and recently converted it into apartments to support people who struggle with chronic homelessness.

They also operate Harbor Place on Route 7 in Shelburne and are working to convert the property into affordable rental and ownership units.

The news comes as the state is working to ease regulatory barriers to increase the desperately low supply of housing, while also finding a way to fund the state’s motel voucher system with federal funds drying up.

Legislators in Montpelier have signaled they will continue to pay for motel housing with state funding through June 30, but would begin to restrict eligibility in May.

Roughly 1,800 households are living in motels, and the Department for Children and Families estimates that 1,045 of those households would remain eligible under the new rules.

VTDigger contributed to this report.

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