Roaring Fork schools set guidelines for staff housing | PostIndependent.com

Roaring Fork schools set guidelines for staff housing

Roaring Fork Schools officials have finalized the policies and procedures that will guide the school district's new teacher housing program that was approved by voters as part of a $122 million bond issue in 2015.

The same bond package that is resulting in the brand new Riverview elementary/middle school south of Glenwood Springs, a new addition and remodel at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, a new bus barn at El Jebel and facility upgrades across the district, also included $5 million each in Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt to purchase or build rental units for teachers and staff.

This summer, six two- and three-bedroom units at the Ironbridge development south of Glenwood Springs, and 17 one-, two- and three-bedroom units at the Willits development in Basalt will be available for qualified employees to move into for the 2017-18 school year.

Deals are being finalized for another dozen or so units at Cardiff Mesa in Glenwood, and planning is underway for a 16- to 20-unit development on district-owned land on Third Street in Carbondale.

To be eligible to enter a lottery for one of the units, a teacher or staff member must work at least 30 hours a week for the district. If there is not enough interest among full-time employees, the units would be made available to part-time employees, Jeff Gatlin, chief operating officer for the school district, explained.

Once built out, 80 percent of the units are to be reserved for teachers and other certified employees, and the remainder will be available for classified (support) staff, according to the guidelines adopted by the school board last week. However, that is flexible depending on the number of qualified applicants from each employee pool.

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Under the rules, monthly rents will be capped at 26 to 30 percent household income, whether that's a teacher and another adult wage earner who doesn't work for the district, or groups of district employees banding together as roommates.

Rather than the guidelines being based on the area median income (AMI), as many affordable housing programs do, the teacher housing program will establish rents based on the median income for district employees, Gatlin also explained.

Currently, that stands at $50,275 per year for certified staff, and $29,841 for classified staff. For the sake of comparison, the broader AMI in Garfield County for a family of four is around $68,000.

One of the challenges of using the different AMI models is that the school district would have to abide by multiple rules and regulations depending on the county or municipal jurisdiction, Gatlin said.

"We needed a more consistent model, so we decided take that same approach and form our own median income," he said. "That way, we were able to say, this is our norm, and establish a formula around that."

The district also ran the model by housing experts in Garfield and Pitkin counties, who validated the approach, Gatlin said.

Under the program, those making 60 percent of the district median income ($30,165) would pay $654 per month for a one-bedroom unit, $784 for a two-bedroom and $902 for three bedrooms.

For those earning 80 percent of the median, rents would range from $905 to $1,249 per month, depending on unit size, and at 100 percent the range would be from $1,173 to $1,619.

Where it tends to get interesting is for those earning more than the median income. At 120 percent of the median ($60,330 per year), rents range from $1,458 to $1,750, and at 140 percent ($70,385), rent caps actually start to exceed current market rates.

"We did have some discussion around that, and if your household income is pushing into those categories you really should be moving toward the free market," Gatlin said. "We anticipate that most of our interest will be in those [60 to 80 percent of median] categories."

Applicants will be required to provide proof of income based on income tax returns, not just their W-2 from the school district. Nondistrict employees, such as spouses or adult children who are contributing to the household income, must provide two years worth of tax returns.

Points will also be awarded to applicants based on certain criteria such as the number of dependents, with special considerations for single parents.

"That was one thing the board felt needed to be included," Gatlin said.

The housing policy will also be reviewed annually and changes made as deemed necessary, he said, although tenants already occupying a unit will not have to comply with any rules changes until their lease comes up. A tenant who remains with the district will be allowed to remain in a unit for up to five years.

"We've been pretty up front that we know these guidelines will likely morph over time," Gatlin said. "We do anticipate a high amount of interest, and we expect to have a waiting list."