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Howard: Working to connect educators with homes

Elyse Howard
Valley Voices

I am the proud mom of two students in Eagle County Schools. The quality and rigor of the education my kids have received from our local schools is phenomenal, and the benefits are far-reaching for the overall community. My kids have had the most wonderful teachers. They are who the kids talk about at the dinner table. It’s such a bright spot in my day to hear the connection. I hope the educational experience is a bright spot for all families with school-aged children.

Elyse Howard

Between my work at Habitat for Humanity and being involved with my children’s school, I have always seen the connection between housing and education. It’s obvious how they go hand in hand. When children have a safe and healthy home, they do better in school. And what makes the schools but the hardworking teachers?

Now more than ever it feels like my worlds are colliding: At a recent Battle Mountain High School accountability committee we heard a presentation from Superintendent Phil Qualman about the struggle to recruit and retain high quality educators. While I think we can all agree there are many flaws with the funding formula for K-12 education in Colorado, I know that the lack of housing — both ownership and rental opportunities affordable to our workforce — is a large part of this challenge.



Superintendent Qualman’s recent column brought attention to the dire situation facing the school district. Teachers are unable to live on their salary in an area with such a high cost of living. In the last two years, the cost of rentals has increased by 20 to 40%; the price of owning a home has skyrocketed. While the superintendent is advocating fixing the funding model at the state level, he is working here at home to increase housing opportunities for educators.

The district doesn’t work in a bubble — it also foresaw the inevitable need for workforce housing. As part of its plan to recruit and retain high-quality staff, the district unveiled its Housing Master Plan two years ago. The goal is to create 120 housing opportunities for District employees and facilitate at least as many additional housing opportunities through partnerships, programs, and linking employees to existing resources. While many of the area’s largest employers talk about housing, we’re thrilled to be in partnership with an organization that is intent on doing something about housing.



This is why we at Habitat have been advocating for housing solutions for so long. While we are making strides, the clear need for housing is at a fevered pitch. Lack of housing is impacting every segment of our community. Now, more than ever, it’s time for collaboration, creative solutions and partnerships — and Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley and Eagle County Schools promise to be part of the solution.

Together, as part of the district’s housing master plan, we are building more homes for educators. Our partnership began five years ago at Grace Avenue. Later this year, we will break ground on a new development on 3rd Street in Eagle adjacent to Eagle Valley Middle School, where we will build 16 homes. Together, we are stronger and able to build a greater impact.

Teachers give so much to our children and community. Now we can support our teachers. How can you help? Join us at the Carpenters’ Ball March 12. It’s our largest fundraiser of the year, where we celebrate this partnership and work to raise funds necessary to break ground on the homes at 3rd Street in Eagle.

If you are an educator in Eagle County in need of a permanently affordable housing solution, call us at 970.748.6718 or email caitlinweis@habitatvailvalley.org. We are part of the solution. Together, we can do more.


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