Students in this ski resort town are building tiny homes to house teachers
The dearth of affordable housing near Colorado ski resorts makes it increasingly difficult for teachers to live where they work
In a resort community where the median home price exceeds $2 million, a first-year teacher’s salary of $50,750 doesn’t go far.
So Aspen School District and other Colorado school districts near ski resorts are taking innovative steps to ensure teachers and other school district employees can afford to live near the schools where they teach and work.
The latest initiative involves high school students building 200-square-foot tiny homes to house educators and other district employees, The Colorado Sun reported.
Aspen School District Superintendent Dave Baugh told The Colorado Sun that the option is not a permanent fix but “I see it as part of an overarching desire to be nimble and to make sure that folks have somewhere that’s warm, safe and dry.”
The houses, constructed by students in Aspen High School’s woodworking program, will likely be placed in mobile home parks or on property owned by the school district.
A tiny home built by students costs about $75,000 for materials and tools, which is less than half of the market price of about $200,000 because there are no labor costs.
According to The Colorado Sun report, about 35% of the school district’s 280 staff members live in housing owned by the district, but the superintendent anticipates that over the next decade, the district will need to develop housing plans for all of its employees.
“It’s the first question from every hire’s mouth: Where am I going to live?” Baugh said.
While it is commonplace for school districts in the West to bond to build or renovate schools, Aspen School District’s $94.3 million bond question approved by voters in 2020 included $45 million for teacher housing. Its current options include one-bedroom apartments to houses with five bedrooms, according to The Aspen Times.
The school district charges rents between 20% and 25% of an employee’s monthly take-home pay, Baugh told The Colorado Sun.
“I don’t see a day when we’ll be able to pay teachers enough to fully buy a free-market house, but that’s not just Aspen,” Baugh said.
“That says something about Colorado teacher salaries, but more realistically it says a lot about Colorado real estate values,” he said.
In Frisco, Colorado, which is near Copper Mountain and Breckenridge ski resorts, Summit School District Superintendent Tony Byrd told The Colorado Sun that he is eager to introduce tiny homes as a component of the district’s housing plan.
“It’s crazy that school districts are now having to be housing developers,” Byrd said.
“I think any superintendent would say, ‘OK, yeah, we’re going to do this because we have to have staff,’ but this is a much bigger problem than us. It’s about the wealth gap in the United States.”