New housing aims to address health care staffing crisis

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 2:48 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - More housing aimed at addressing the challenges of retaining health workers is on the way in South Burlington. The University of Vermont Health Network Thursday broke ground on new housing adjacent to South Burlington’s new city center on Market Street.

“We really need these resources so we can grow our workforce,” said Molly Lawrence, a UVM employee. She and her husband have housing and have found child care for their growing family but she knows other colleagues aren’t as lucky. “I know that so many colleagues, neighbors, friends have had challenges securing these resources.”

The UVM Health Network is nearing completion of an adjacent 61-unit housing complex and on Thursday announced its bigger twin. “We really need more affordable housing,” said Sunil Eappen, the network’s new president and CEO.

The new 120 new apartments will range from studio to two-bedroom and will be market rate, but subsidized based on tenant income by the Health Network.

“It’s all designed to help our teammates and our permanent workforce,” said the network’s Al Gobeille. He says the apartments will offer on-site child care. “It is designed to hit the two biggest needs we are seeing, and so people want child care where they live.”

The building will have 75 child care spots for children of network employees, infant through Pre-K. It’s a plan that the childcare organization Lets Grow Kids says is vital right now. “The child care crisis is dire right now in Vermont, and it’s not new,” said the group’s Aly Richards.

The idea is to use the housing/child care combo as an incentive to attract more permanent employees. And if it works, they plan to take the model elsewhere. “We need to look into the Berlin area, we are talking with folks in the Middlebury area. But also in upstate New York, there is a tremendous need for housing. We need to do this everywhere to meet the workforce crisis we are facing,” Gobeille said.

And as a parent and employee, Molly Lawrence attests that this will be a very attractive offer. “I feel very optimistic that this will be a really appealing two offer to future employees,” she said.

The 61-unit apartments are on track to open in March while the latest effort is slated to open in early 2024.

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