School district leads push for affordable housing units

School officials are promoting a 66-unit affordable housing project, which they say can stem problems in recruiting and keeping teachers in the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area.

Garfield County School District 16 says the project is needed because of competition for area housing by energy workers.

That problem remains, even with the recent downturn in area natural gas drilling activity, said Bill Simpson, a developer who is assisting the district with the project.

The district is working with other entities, including the town of Parachute, on the project.

Employees for the school district and town and other public-sector and service workers would be eligible to live in the homes.

Project organizers have an option on land in Battlement Mesa and plan to seek $1.5 million in state energy-impact funding.

The project’s estimated cost is $11.5 million. Other financing would come from sources such as tax credits, private debt and equity, and sales of 16 homes at a proposed cost of $190,000 each.

Another 50 units would be rented at about $600 to $800 a month initially, and 20 would have income restrictions.

District 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall said most area rents are too high for what his teachers make. Even motels are being occupied by high-paid energy workers, he said.

“Our folks just can’t compete,” Haptonstall said.

The district says its annual teacher turnover has increased from 18 percent 10 years ago to 39 percent now, largely due to lack of affordable housing.

In their energy impact grant application, project planners said the average home price in Parachute was more than $289,000. To afford such a home, a family would need to earn $75,000, nearly twice what teachers and public employees in the Parachute area make, they said.


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