Roaring Fork School Board votes to update staff housing guidelines, housing plan to include new Carbondale units

Darian Armer
Special to the Post Independent
Housing concept for district-owned land near Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. Courtesy Roaring Fork School District

The Roaring Fork School District Board of Education voted last week to update guidelines and move forward with a housing plan to add more staff housing in Carbondale and the associated funding structure.

Chief operating officer for the district Jeff Gatlin outlined the proposed guideline updates, including changes to home ownership eligibility and extra application points based on location of community, in a presentation during the April 13 board meeting.

“Each year we collect issues that have come up with current guidelines and try to address them,” Gatlin said. “We knew getting into this that being both landlord and employer would lead to some sticky situations, and every year something sticky comes up.”

Gatlin said home ownership eligibility has evolved over the years, with guidelines already changing twice to accommodate different circumstances. Previously, if an individual owned a home within 100 miles of Glenwood Springs, they were not eligible for staff housing. If the individual owned a home outside of Glenwood Springs and the home hadn’t sold in one year then the individual was not eligible for a lease renewal.

Going forward, if a staff member owns a home, the home must be divested prior to completion of the initial lease term. Gatlin said this change accommodates for situations such as divorce.

The other guideline change concerns awarding extra application points based on location. Additional points will no longer be awarded to applicants applying for housing in the community in which they work or in which their children attend school. Gatlin said this created unintentional unfair advantages that didn’t account as well for actual need.

“It felt like we were getting too deep into the weeds and personal choice. We want to prioritize need,” he said.

Gatlin broached future conversations to be brought before the board, including extending or removing term limits, rental rate adjustments over time, managing staff retirements and other life changes, and expanding eligibility to additional staff groups. He said the next step was to prioritize the expansion of staff housing by 30-60 units. The district currently operates a 66-unit rental housing program.

The 30-60 units would be built on the identified Meadowood site in Carbondale near Roaring Fork High School. The site would contain a mix of 1BR, 2BR and 3BR units. The total estimated cost is between $17.19 million and $22.88 million (depending on the number of units). It would be paid by a combination of internal funds and COP financing.

Next steps include presenting a finalized plan and funding proposal to the board for ultimate approval prior to development of actual units, which are targeted to begin construction next school year.

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