Colorado school districts take landlord role for teacher housing
To overcome affordability gap, administrators offer subsidized homes near ski resort
Wages for school teachers and bus drivers across Colorado aren’t keeping up with the soaring cost of housing — so some districts are working to provide them homes.
Districts in the Rocky Mountain State are building tiny homes, becoming landlords and teaming up with developers to lease homes to educators at affordable rates, or allow them to own part of the American Dream, the Denver Post Reported.
The effort is particularly pronounced in Colorado’s expensive high country, where a typical single-family home in Pitkin County listed this fall for $6.9 million, while median rent in the ski mecca of Aspen was $35,000.
“You’ve got mountain commutes, mountain weather and kids whose teachers aren’t living in the community unless you are doing something with housing,” Superintendent David Baugh of the Aspen School District told the Post.
“If you can’t provide housing, it’s hard to provide teachers.”
Leaders from Douglas, Summit and Pitkin counties stress that traditional salary raises can’t keep pace with rising housing costs, requiring direct involvement in the market.
Colorado faces a shortage of more than 100,000 housing units, contributing to a median home price of $649,000 in greater Denver and even higher prices in mountain areas such as Pitkin and Summit counties.
The Aspen School District, a pioneer in this approach since the 1980s, has more than 100 subsidized homes for its employees, and recently added 50 more with a $45 million bond measure.
The district keeps rent capped at 25 percent of employees’ salaries. It’s also introducing a tiny home initiative built by high school students.
The Douglas County School District is exploring a similar path, using district land to create affordable housing for its workforce. Despite a recent $66 million increase in property taxes to boost salaries, the district acknowledges a persistent affordability gap.
Other districts, including Denver Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools, are considering different solutions.
While they are not yet developing housing, teachers unions advocate for repurposing closed school buildings for housing, or exploring rent-to-own options.
Teachers express concerns about being tenants of their employers, highlighting potential challenges if contracts are not renewed.
Administrators say the overall goal is to provide affordable housing, attract and retain educators, and ensure that students benefit from a stable teaching workforce.
— Dana Bartholomew