UVM Health Network investing $2.8M in apartments for hospital staff

The University of Vermont Health Network is investing $2.8 million to help finance housing in South Burlington that can be used for its workers.

UVM Health Network officials told Becker's on March 10 the health system will take a 10-year master lease on 61 new one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that are built, then make those units available first to its workers, potentially at a subsidy for eligible employees.

The health system, which will not manage the property, aims to provide housing for permanent workers and their families, or transitional housing for employees who move to the area and look for a house or apartment. 

"UVM Health Network is working to recruit and retain a talented workforce amid a severe nationwide staffing shortage. It's not news to anyone that lack of housing that is affordable for our workforce has been a consistent barrier to success, especially in Chittenden County," Al Gobeille, executive vice president for operations at UVM Health Network, said in a statement. "We're listening to our employees and to the people who we try to recruit when they say that housing is a barrier for them and believe that this innovative partnership will have a real benefit for our employees, patients and community."

These workforce challenges are not specific to UVM Health Network. Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. are facing staffing shortages and rising labor costs as they vie for talent. For instance, New Jersey hospitals more than tripled their 2020 spending on agency and travel staff last year, estimating they spent $670 million, according to a recent survey from the New Jersey Hospital Association. Meanwhile, some hospital systems have said the lack of affordable housing is hindering their ability to plug staff shortages. 

Beyond UVM Health Network's $2.8 million investment in its project, the developer is funding the remaining cost.

Vermont's healthcare regulator, the Green Mountain Care Board, has determined the project is not subject to certificate of need review. UVM Health Network said the health system hopes to break ground before the end of March, with the goal of having it ready for occupancy by March 2023. 

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