UVM Health Network

Housing options for UVM Health Network employees expand with opening of second apartment building

120-unit apartment building at 112 Garden Street in South Burlington is health system’s latest investment to address regional housing shortage

Sunny Eappen, MD, MBA, President and CEO of UVM Health Network gives speech outdoors.

Burlington, Vt. – Kimberly Holman almost never came to Burlington or joined University of Vermont Medical Center, where she now works as a mental health technician with the inpatient psychiatric care team. Not because Holman was hesitant about moving to the region amid a critical shortage of mental health services– but because she couldn’t find a place to live.

Holman, a Massachusetts native and mother of one with years of experience providing residential care to adolescents and children, had jumped at the chance to join the region’s only academic medical center. But her joy at landing her position quickly turned to frustration when she started searching for housing for herself and her 18-year-old daughter.

“When I started looking, I was like ‘oh my gosh – there’s not a lot of housing and it’s very, very expensive’,” she said.

It wasn’t until Holman learned of The University of Vermont Health Network’s apartment building on Market Street in South Burlington, and found out she qualified for a subsidized unit through the health system’s newly-launched subsidy program, that Holman was able to celebrate launching the next phase of her career in health care. On June 26, Holman will celebrate her one-year anniversary at UVM Medical Center.;

“If I hadn’t been able to get into this building (at 303 Market Street), I would not have been able to take the job,” she said.

Finding housing in the greater Burlington area just got easier for new and existing employees of University of Vermont Health Network, with health system leaders joined by community members and government officials to celebrate the opening of 112 Garden Street apartments in South Burlington, Vermont.

The new building is the organization’s latest effort to address regional housing challenges that have further fueled a national health care workforce shortage. Available exclusively to new and existing health system employees, the building adds 120 apartments to the already in-use 61 units that became available last year at nearby 303 Market Street.

Investments reflect ongoing effort to recruit and retain employees

Health system leaders said the investments in housing – a total of 181 apartment units– reflect the need to recruit and retain employees who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing and childcare. In Vermont, home prices spiked higher than anywhere else in the country last year, while fewer homes sold, and finding quality childcare has been a serious concern for many, as years of low wages for childcare providers have led to staffing shortages and long wait lists for families.

The recently opened Garden Street apartment building will also support employee’s family needs, with an on-site childcare center serving up to 70 children and focused on infants to Pre-K. The childcare center is expected to launch later this fall.

UVM Health Network’s investments in housing initiatives extend beyond South Burlington. Central Vermont Medical Center has partnered with Barre Area Development to explore a new subdivision named Prospect Heights, which would include dedicated units for hospital staff.

“Finding housing and quality childcare is challenging in Vermont and northern New York, and those challenges affect people’s ability to live and work in the communities we serve,” said Sunny Eappen, MD, MBA, President and CEO of UVM Health Network. “This impacts both our ability to continue to provide outstanding patient care, and our financial stability as we try to reduce our reliance on temporary staff. Partnering with local developers and childcare organizations, along with investing to help our workforce overcome these major obstacles, enables us to continue meeting the increasingly acute health care needs of patients across our region.”

Employees and their families began moving into the Garden Street apartment building earlier this month, which range from studios to two bedrooms – signed so far. The apartments include all utilities, internet connections and in-unit laundry rooms, a pet washing station and fitness facility. 

“Being able to assure prospective employees that we are taking significant steps to assist in securing high-quality, affordable housing is an incredible boost to our recruitment efforts,” said Jerald Novak, Chief People Officer for UVM Health Network. “These apartments not only help our system recruit people who are excited to join our team, they help keep more of our colleagues working with us as well.”

Increased subsidies recognize the high cost of housing

Apartment units, which are available for up to 24 months, are available by application to all full-time UVM Health Network employees. After last year’s grand opening of the Market Street building generated significant interest, the health system has expanded its subsidy program for households earning below 80 percent of Chittenden County’s median income, reflecting the rapidly increasing cost of housing in the greater Burlington area. This expansion has capped rent for a quarter of units in the building at 30 percent of a household’s income. The changes are being implemented to include existing employees already receiving a subsidy with their lease at the Market Street building.

Employees who are part of the subsidy program, or who are on a waitlist for a subsidized unit, will also have access to additional services through a collaboration with United Way’s Working Bridges program. The program provides a wide variety of services to employees, including assistance in making rent payments, and overcoming obstacles to securing affordable, long-term housing.

“This project – in particular the integration of high-quality housing and childcare services under one roof – is both a strategic investment to support our people and a brick-and-mortar statement showcasing our organization’s values: community, family and a shared responsibility ensuring our future is better than our present,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of UVM Medical Center, who served as master of ceremonies at Tuesday’s celebration. “I’m incredibly proud of our efforts supporting the compassionate and skilled people who care for our region every single day.”