NewsCovering Colorado


Bold innovation⎯Colorado Springs school district takes on affordable housing for teachers

Posted at 7:46 PM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 08:47:26-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Spring Harrison School District 2 is moving forward with a bold and innovative new plan to attract and retain teachers.

“There's no one doing it in Colorado Springs. And that's why we say we're maverick,” said District 2 Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Support Services, Dr. Mike Claudio.

The idea is to add teacher housing on district owned property for newly recruited teachers with a rent rate matched to their starting salary.

Rising housing prices and rent rates in Colorado Springs have become a barrier to recruiting young entry level teachers interested in Harrison District 2 and Colorado Springs.

Rather than suggesting roommates, the proposed district housing program would allow Claudio and his staff to offer a perk.

“We can make it affordable for you to come live and grow in our community, which is the southeast side of Colorado Springs

The idea is to add 40 housing units with small duplexes on a portion of mostly unused District 2 property next to school.

The district owns the land, while the local non-profit We Fortify will own the buildings.

“We specifically became a nonprofit developer, so that we could access grant and foundation money, and that we didn't have to give that high rate of return to our investors,” said We Fortify, Founder and CEO Shelley Jensen.

The District 2 project is a slight shift from We Fortify’s primary mission of helping young people break the cycle of poverty through supported housing.

The school district housing idea came about while Jensen was sitting next to Harrison District 2 Administrator, Christine O’Brien, at a fundraising event.

“My mother was a teacher for 17 years. So, I have another heart for this. And I see how hard they work,” said Jensen.

A third player in the collaboration is Pure Papaya, the builder.

“Papaya was built to build housing more efficiently,” said Corey Hanker with Pure Papaya Development

Pure Papaya builds modular units that double down on efficiency.

Modular pieces constructed in a factory and then assembled on site are cost effective and quick to build.

The design and modern materials bring 75 to 80% percent energy savings for the renter.

“It's being able to make a real difference on a piece of land that was essentially being almost unused and so we’re excited to activate that piece and parcel to life,” said Hanker.

Rather than market rate, rent is based on an entry level teachers take home pay.

“What we've realized is that if we want to be able to tackle affordable housing, we've got to do it on our own,” said Claudio, “And we've got to do it on our property to make it feasible so that we can keep the rents down to about $825 a month.”

A $6 million capital campaign is launching to take the plan from innovative idea to reality.

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