Downvalley teachers yearn for affordable housing units | AspenTimes.com

Downvalley teachers yearn for affordable housing units

A tentative plan by the downvalley school district to provide affordable housing earned excellent marks from teachers last month.

A survey showed that 68 teachers in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs would be interested in renting or buying a home. Another 54 respondents said they aren’t interested in the school project ? 47 of them because they are content with the home they already own.

The survey results are important because school district officials are exploring whether to build an affordable housing project adjacent to Basalt High School. The district needed proof that there is demand before pursuing the proposal further.

The survey shows that demand is highest among teachers early in their careers. That comes as little surprise since the starting salary for teachers in the Roaring Fork School District is about $28,000 annually and entry level homes in the midvalley cost more than $300,000.

Among the 68 respondents who are interested in the possible school housing project, 30 percent are in their first year while 14 percent have one year of experience. Another 23 percent have two years of experience; 13 percent are three-year veterans; and 16 percent have worked in the area between four and seven years.

The remaining 4 percent have been with the district between eight and 16 years.

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The survey was conducted by committees formed by the school district and the town of Basalt to explore solutions to the housing shortage for teachers and school district employees. The total number of full-time employees wasn’t available.

Of the survey respondents who want affordable housing opportunities, 41 percent have incomes between $25,000 and $40,000. Another 40 percent have incomes between $41,000 and $60,000.

Of those who would like to see a Basalt project, 65 percent currently rent their homes and 35 percent own.

Forty percent of the district employees who are interested in the project are from Basalt while 41 percent are from Carbondale. The remaining 19 percent are from Glenwood Springs.

The survey indicated that some supporters would like opportunities to live in affordable housing in the towns where they teach.

Basalt High School Principal Jim Waddick said the high cost of living creates high turnover at local schools. He sees the potential for the situation to get worse.

There is a core of teachers who got established in the Roaring Fork Valley when housing prices were more affordable, Waddick noted. “That sort of older teacher tends to be the one that’s retiring,” he said.

On the other end of the spectrum, young teachers may start off renting a room or splitting a house for a few years, then realize they want to settle down, start a family and own their home. Opportunities don’t exist for them so they often leave.

That creates a gap in the number of teachers in the middle of the experience spectrum, Waddick noted.

He is concerned about losing the current crop of young teachers who see no hope of buying property locally.

“I get real frustrated watching the revolving door,” Waddick said.

The school district hasn’t made a definitive plan for the Basalt housing but the survey was an important first step, said Bruce Matherly, a member of the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education.

“It’s something we’re excited about,” said Matherly. “I think the board supports the concept but the rub is the cost.”

District officials continue to explore how they could front the money to build a housing project, then recoup costs over time. If a project progresses in Basalt and proves successful, it could be used as a template in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]