Eagle County School District says it is on track to hit 60% of its employee housing goal by next spring
The district has a goal to create 120 housing opportunities by 2030, a goal it may revisit as demand continues to rise
In April 2020, the Eagle County School District set forth a 10-year roadmap to advance its employee housing efforts. In the months and years since, the district has continued to make progress toward the plan’s broad goal of creating 120 housing opportunities for its employees by 2030.
At its Wednesday, Nov. 15, meeting, Sandy Farrell, the district’s chief operating officer, provided the Board of Education with an update on its progress as well as a look ahead at what it hopes to achieve in 2024.
According to Farrell, by the end of the 2023-24 school year, the district will be 60% of the way to its goal.
Ultimately, while the housing master plan identifies that housing is one of the biggest challenges for district employees living and working in Eagle County, Farrell acknowledged creating housing is also about student impact.
“Having fully staffed schools helps create a better learning environment,” read Farrell’s presentation.
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“It trickles down,” she added.
Moving toward 120 units
According to the housing master plan document, the goal of 120 units was “informed by assessing the land opportunities available, current understanding of staff needs and preferences, and expectations about what could be absorbed in the current market.”
The goal is split into thirds, with the first third being 40 district-owned rental units for employees. Farrell reported to the board that the district is on track to be at 117% of this goal by the school year’s end, having added 47 district-owned rental units since the plan was created.
A significant chunk of this inventory is within the district’s Miller Flats property in Edwards. This apartment complex currently has 10 units occupied, with the remaining 27 units expected to have residents by April 1, 2024.
The second third is for housing available for homeownership. Farrell said the district is around 40% of its way to achieving this goal thanks to its partnership with Habitat for Humanity at the 2nd Street and Grace Avenue developments. District employees occupy 12 of the Grace Avenue homes, while the 12 units allocated at 2nd Street are currently under construction.
The final third was left “undefined” in the 2020 plan to leave it open for whatever needs were highest in the future, Farrell said.
In addition to the district-owned rental units and employee-owned units, the district has also obtained master leases across the county. According to the presentation, this includes five at Two10 @ Castle Peak in Eagle, six at EagleBend in Avon, seven at The Piedmont in Avon, two at Kayak Crossing in Avon, and a six-plex in Gypsum. Plus, it has upcoming master leases set aside at The Overlook at Eby Creek in Eagle, two homes at the Buckhorn Valley Phase 7 in Gypsum, and three duplexes at Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards.
While this goal may have seemed ambitious at the time, the demand and housing needs have only amplified for district employees.
“A goal of 120 units seemed really aggressive at the time, but when we look at how far along we are and the demand (for) more housing, it becomes apparent that this is not enough,” Farrell said.
So, looking ahead, Farrell acknowledged that the district will likely look at revising and updating the housing master plan next year to reflect the growing demand.
The upcoming year
Additionally, as the district looks forward to 2024, there are two housing projects it has prioritized.
The first is the IK Bar property in Gypsum, which sits between Red Hill Elementary School and Gypsum Creek Middle School. The property could bring between 20 and 50 units of housing in addition to an early learning center that could serve up to 320 children. The district already has contracted an owner’s representative and architect for the project, Farrell said.
As contemplated in conceptual designs in February of this year, the property could provide 50 units of employee housing in four buildings. This includes two apartment buildings with 20 units per building and two townhomes with five units per building.
Optimistically, Farrell said the goal would be “to be able to break ground sometime next year and be able to see the horizontal (construction) and a portion of the vertical (construction)” even though it’s only partially through the design phase at this point.
The second housing project is at Maloit Park in Minturn, which could result in up to 138 units of housing. As contemplated in October, the development plan includes 38 duplexes, 52 townhomes and 48 condo units. The district is working through the development application process currently. In the presentation, Farrell identified that the district is looking to install housing development infrastructure on the property next year to support future development.
The district is looking to begin putting out requests for qualifications for contractors in January 2024.
Farrell acknowledged that achieving its goals and planned strategies for the upcoming year is not without its challenges.
Primarily, its challenges are around water negotiations and seeking additional funding.
On water, Farrell said that this includes ensuring it has enough water taps to service both sites’ full capacity. In the presentation, the district has a goal to complete water negotiations and finalize entitlements by Jan. 31, 2024.
On funding, while Eagle County voters approved a $100 million bond for the district, which it can put toward employee housing, Farrell said it will take more funding to build out the IK Bar property and Maloit Park to maximum development potential.
“It’s key to get the infrastructure in and get as many built as possible, but then look for other funding mechanisms to do the vertical building,” Farrell said, adding that it will likely look similar to how it financed the Miller Flats apartments in Edwards.
In the presentation, the district has a goal to secure this additional funding by June 30, 2024.