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Blaine County School District moves forward with plan to build affordable housing for staff

A school board member said a number of highly qualified candidates had to turn down job offers "because they couldn't find a place to live."

HAILEY, Idaho — The Blaine County School District is addressing the affordable housing concerns affecting many staff members.

In October, the school board approved an Emergency Employee Housing Assistance program, which gave employees stipends of $500. Currently, 25 employees are now receiving the extra aid. Earlier this month, the board unanimously voted to move forward with a plan that includes building affordable housing specifically for district employees.

“Last year as we went through the hiring process, a number of very highly qualified candidates had to turn down contracts because they couldn't find a place to live in Blaine County,” said Dan Turner, one of the Blaine County School District trustees.

The board voted March 15 to start the planning process to build affordable housing on district land. The plan is to build on three residential lots in Hailey, with up to nine homes in the first phase.

According to Turner, the district surveyed staff, and found that 83 percent of them thought housing costs affected their long-term ability to staff in the district. 97 percent of staff said the high housing costs were a barrier in hiring staff.

“One of the big topics was housing insecurity for our staff; you know, stories of teacher's colleagues losing their homes, the rent being raised,” Turner said. “There hasn't been a lot of building in the (Wood River) valley since the '90s, and everything that does get built is very high-end and pretty much out of reach.”

“What we would like to see is the ability for the district to control the rent price and keep it at 30 percent of adjusted gross family income. In that case, you could have different tenants pay different rents according to where we are on our salary schedule,” Turner said.

Turner hopes that they can find a willing developer by April and start on the project by May. If the project is a success, they hope to create more affordable housing on more of the district's land.

“It’s an inability to fill positions, it has a direct impact on student achievement and everything else, you know a school district, this a people business and we need to keep people here,” Turner said.

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