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Basalt teacher housing labeled priority

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Creating rental housing in Basalt for teachers should be Roaring Fork School District’s No. 1 priority, in terms of providing affordable places for district employees to live.That was the recommendation made by staff from McCormick and Associates, a Colorado Springs-based firm hired to work with RTA Architects of Boulder on the district’s master planning process. Kathy McCormick and Brian Calhoun of McCormick and Associates and Pat Ziuzhkovski of RTA Architects presented their findings at the Sept. 10 Re-1 board meeting. A first draft of the group’s report, the Roaring Fork School District Employee Housing Needs Assessment, was distributed to Re-1 board members, administrators and the public at the Sept. 10 meeting. McCormick told the board she and her staff visited several sites owned by the district that might be considered for future housing developments. They also researched the Colorado State Division of Housing Vacancy Survey to determine local rental vacancies, and used surveys and interviews to get an accurate picture of what teachers and district staff face in a search for housing. McCormick said her recommendations to address Basalt’s rental housing situation first are based on available land, potential new affordable housing developments currently being planned, existing housing and its costs, and the needs of district employees. Basalt schools currently employ 135 people, 86 who own their homes and 49 who rent. She said according to the 2000 census, 360 units were available for rent in the community, at more than $990 per month regardless of size. That’s beyond what most employees could or were willing to pay for a rental unit. McCormick recommended that district rental housing be priced at or below $700 per month per unit. “There is a limited supply of rental housing in Basalt and several potential developments that may introduce more affordable housing to buy,” McCormick said, explaining why she thinks rental housing is a more urgent need in Basalt than owner-occupied.She said building employee rental housing would likely cause employees who currently work in Basalt to move to Basalt. She said she found many employees who work in Basalt live in Glenwood Springs, where rents are lower. McCormick said another plus for Basalt is that the school district owns the property directly south of Basalt High School, a site that the planning team visited and felt would work for a 27-unit housing development, although McCormick did admit it isn’t 100 percent ideal. “Living adjacent to a school had a slight negative effect on housing choices among district employees,” she said. “Renters are more likely to accept this location if the units are high quality, the rent is affordable and the site design mitigates potential impacts.” Re-1 board member Bill Shirley suggested that the next step in the process should be to arrange a housing workshop with Re-1 officials; Basalt town manager Tom Baker; local architect Joede Schoeberlein, who did much of the work on Carbondale’s proposed Bair Ranch affordable housing project; people from the community; organizations such as Garfield County Housing Authority, the Roaring Fork Trust and Healthy Mountain Communities; as well as local commercial lenders.”Let’s ID players for a task force,” Shirley said. “Let’s get our heads together and move some of this forward.” Board member Sue Hakanson agreed with Shirley.”Now that we have a solid recommendation, we are poised as a group to look ahead,” Hakanson said. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.com

McCormick and Associates surveyed teachers and other employees of Roaring Fork School District Re-1 and asked them to anonymously share their comments on housing issues. Here are a few of their responses:-“I don’t think the school district should build employee housing. Increase salaries so people can live here is the best solution. The school district should not get involved in real estate.”-“I think the best scenario for young staff is rent-controlled (as low cost as possible) housing (condos, duplexes, apartments). This gives them a chance to save for a down payment.”-“I see experienced teachers leaving our district because the cost of living is less elsewhere, a because they can earn more money in almost all districts, even the ones closest to ours.”-“Please build affordable housing in the Basalt area. Employees that work in this area struggle to afford a place to rent or own. Thank you for all your efforts on this project.”-“Something needs to be done if you want to attract and keep good teachers. I’m tired of mentoring new teachers only to lose them to other schools because of housing and the high cost of living.”


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