Re-1 gets an offer it can’t refuse |

Re-1 gets an offer it can’t refuse

Recruiting and retaining teachers and administrators in the valley’s high-priced real estate market has been confounding school officials for years.

So when the Roaring Fork Re-1 School Board heard a proposal Wednesday on creating 27 low-cost housing units, using minimal staff time and no school district money, board members were all ears.

“What do we need to do to move this forward another step, or two or three?” asked board president Robin Garvik.

The proposal came from Diane Ash of the Basalt Housing Task Force (BHTF), Kay Clark-Philip, administrative assistant for the town of Basalt, and Susan Hunke, director of the Mountain Regional Housing Corp.

The BHTF, formed last November, found that the lack of affordable housing for teachers is one of the most pressing problems in the midvalley area. With support from the Basalt Trustees, the BHTF wants to work with the school district to help solve the problem.

Hunke described a successful affordable housing project she worked on with the Telluride School District

Telluride built four deed-restricted units to provide low-cost housing for district employees, at a cost of $500,000 – well below Telluride’s market value, and is now building 10 more units at a cost of $1 million. The school district had no financial involvement.

“It’s simple and clear and a marvelously easy concept to grasp,” said Hunke.

The district would lease school district land for a specified period of time, say 40 years, to the MRHC or a similar entity, which in turn would develop the site and oversee renting, leasing or selling of the units. Banks provide financing.

After the lease is up, the property reverts back to the district.

Since the MRHC is a non-profit Community Housing Development Organization, it can receive state and federal funding, said Hunke. And since financing for the project would be done through a bank, not with school money, the project would not require voter approval.

The district decides which employees qualify for housing, how many units would be sold or rented, and other details, and can be as creative or as rigid as it chooses.

“Our organization would be interested in working with you,” Hunke told school board members.

Many of the initial details have already been worked out.

Basalt architect Ted Guy presented a conceptual plan for up to 27 low-cost units, which would be built on school property directly behind Basalt High School.

“We do know how desperately the Basalt school system needs affordable housing to attract teachers,” said Guy.

According to Guy, prices would start at $125,000 for a one- or two-bedroom modular unit and climb to $185,000 for a 1,600-square-foot unit with a garage.

Site development would cost about $23,000 per unit, Guy said. Costs could also be influence by the number of units built (the more units, the lower the cost per unit), and whether the homes would be modular or stick-built.

Stick-built could add up to $60,000 for larger units, said Guy.

“It is possible to get attractive modular housing,” he assured.

Guy noted that water is already available on the property, but power and sewer would need to be extended to the site.

Guy estimated that units could be ready for occupancy by the start of the 2003-04 school year. “That’s optimistic, but it could be done,” he said.

Basalt High School Principal Jim Waddick expressed concern over loss of already scarce parking space at the school, since the development would displace 25 to 30 spaces, and about having housing so close to the school.

“But, I think that need overrides those concerns,” he said.

Board members agreed to form a committee to work with the town of Basalt and the housing groups in pursuing the project. Board members will also look into the possibility of creating similar projects on other lands owned by the district.

The school district recently entered into a contract to purchase the 24.5-acre North Face property in Carbondale (see story below). District Superintendent Fred Wall said it was too early to tell whether this site could be considered for an affordable housing project.

“Fair housing in Carbondale is an extremely important issue,” as it is in Basalt and in Glenwood Springs, said Wall. The district “will continue seeking solutions to housing issues for all three of its communities.”

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