Eagle County School District readies Edwards employee housing for fall

The first 10 units are expected to be available to employees in October

The Eagle County School District is preparing for the first units at Miller Flats to open in October.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

The Eagle County School District is readying for its first employees to move into its new Edwards apartment complex this fall.

Recently designated as Miller Flats, the first 10 units in the 37-unit complex are scheduled to be ready for occupancy Oct. 1, 2023. The remaining apartments are on track to open for employees by April 1, 2024.

The district’s Board of Education had its first walkthrough of the construction site — located just east of Battle Mountain High School — on Wednesday, June 14.

“It was great going to Miller Flats,” said Ted Long, the board’s vice president, at its regular board meeting that same day. “It’s so awesome walking through those places and just thinking about how they’re going to be occupied and our teachers are going to have great places to live.”

The district will be running a lottery to select occupants for the 37 units. Last week, it opened the lottery for the first 10 units, and within the first 24 hours there were more than 100 applicants, Superintendent Philip Qualman reported.

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“The demand is certainly there,” he said, adding that the district is “making great efforts” toward meeting that demand.”I wish we could make it happen faster, but we’re working as fast as we can.”

According to its housing guidelines, the district’s available housing units — which includes master leases as well as other owned units and properties — are allocated based on three types of employees: new hires, international hires and all other employees. These three categories have different lease lengths.

The guidelines establish that employees will be notified of available units and then have the opportunity to apply. These applications are processed by its housing committee, “based on District needs.” From there, the committee will perform a lottery to fill the vacant unit.

“Initial selection can be based on new hires, current employees, international employees, hard-to-fill positions, roommate status, etc., based on immediate needs for attracting and retaining employees,” the guidelines read.

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When completed, the project will have 19 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom units and seven three-bedroom units.

In planning the project, which is the first employee housing development that the district has built from the ground up, officials were determined to maintain the affordability of the units. As such, rather than use the standard AMI (or average median income) definition of affordability, the district tied its rental rates to its certified staff base salary.

With the district’s recent increases to its salary schedule — which raised the base for certified staff to $50,500 — it also increased its rental rates. These rates are:

  • $1,260 a month for a one-bedroom
  • $1,640 a month for a two-bedroom
  • $2,130 a month for a three-bedroom
  • $400 a month for a lot rental

These rates apply not only to the upcoming units at the Miller Flats but also to any new leases that start after July 1, 2023. All currently held leases will maintain their existing rates until the end of their leases. The lot rental rate refers to the 15 mobile home lots that the district owns in Maloit Park in Minturn.

“We are still looking at an outstanding rental rate; $1,260 for a one-bedroom per month including utilities. That is an incredible rate, so we’ve done a good thing bringing these online,” Qualman said.

The district is financing the Miller Flats development using certificates of participation, which allows it to be self-funded through rental revenues. It expects these certificates to be paid off in less than 30 years.

As the district makes progress on Miller Flats, it is also working on other projects and opportunities to bolster its supply of employee housing. This includes the number of master leases it holds, which Sandy Farrell, the district’s chief operating officer, told the board have been continuing to increase. Matt Miano, the district’s chief communications officer, told the Vail Daily that it currently has around 30 total master leases.

It also includes its ongoing partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Last week, the nonprofit broke ground on 16 new homes in the Third Street neighborhood in Eagle. Twelve of these new homes will go toward Eagle County School District employees.

Concurrently, it is exploring the future development of housing at Maloit Park, which could potentially add up to 120 new units. Most recently, in November, the district approved a budget to begin the entitlement process on the parcel.

It also has begun planning and design work on a new development between Red Hill Elementary and Gypsum Creek Middle School — also known as the IK Bar property. There, it is contemplating not only employee housing but also an early learning center to serve the down valley population. It is estimating the project could serve 320 children and bring 50 units of housing.

All of this is moving the district closer to its goal of creating 120 housing opportunities for district employees by 2030.

Qualman added that Miller Flats “gives us an excellent model to continue that concept at the property in between Red Hill Elementary and Gypsum Creek Middle as well as Maloit Park in South Minturn.”

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