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Town offers the school district a chance for employee housing

School board will vote in March

By Aimee Eaton

When Gunnison Watershed School District administrators talk about the housing crisis in the upper valley, they often place emphasis on the community aspect of the Crested Butte Community School. As in, “Our teachers should be able to live in the community.”

With this in mind, the school district has been in conversations with the town of Crested Butte about collaborating on the construction and purchase of local housing to be used as rentals for district employees.

At the February 26 school board work session, Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman, town manager Dara MacDonald and Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) executive director Jennifer Kermode presented an opportunity for the school district to purchase part of a duplex, or an entire duplex, at a reduced rate for district employee housing. The unit is part of a build by the town that, when finished, will place either four or five duplexes (eight or 10 units) into the town’s affordable housing pool.

“Last year the Town Council made a commitment to provide housing for the school district,” Yerman told the school board. “We’re planning on breaking ground on this project on May 1. We’d like to know if the school district wants to be involved.”

Yerman explained that the town is subsidizing the cost of the buildings, but in order to get the construction financing nailed down, it had to be able to show the bank that there were interested parties. He also explained that if the district were interested in purchasing a whole duplex, the town would likely add a fifth structure to its plan—a decision that would continue to move town toward its goal of increasing affordable housing. The cost of a single side of a duplex is estimated to be about $250,000.

School board member Marilyn Krill said she and many members of the board had reservations about joining the property management game as landlords, to which Kermode responded that the GVRHA could fill that role for the district for a small fee.

“It would give you some separation from the whole rental process,” said Kermode.

In the 2017-18 budget, the school district assigned about $326,000 for workforce housing, and it has consistently said it is committed to exploring housing solutions for teachers and staff.

While the school board did not jump at the town’s offer to purchase a unit, they did commit to discussing the option further and voting on whether to proceed at the next school board meeting, to be held March 12.

“We’d like to know as soon as possible whether the school district wants to be involved,” MacDonald told the board.

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