Story and photos by Karen Bossic
New affordable housing is on the horizon for Blaine County School District employees
The school district and ARCH Community Housing Trust hope to break ground this summer on a 5-unit affordable housing complex in Hailey.
If the new housing for teachers goes in as quickly as the groundbreaking ceremony, there should be five new units for teachers in a blink of an eye.
ARCH (Advocates for Real Community Housing) staged a groundbreaking ceremony with Blaine County School District and City of Hailey officials Wednesday in two minutes flat—the haste designed to beat the onslaught of a dark cloud looming over Carbonate Mountain.
As it turned out, the heavens wouldn’t open until five hours later. But the ground had been opened, marking the construction to come.
The property, currently a long rectangular grassy lot ringed by crabapple and other trees, sits next to the Blaine County School District office on West Bullion Street in Hailey. Come September 2024 it will feature a quadplex with three bedrooms in each unit, as well as a studio unit.
A couple more projects offering two to three more units of housing are set to be developed on Croy Street near Atkinsons’ Market and on Roberta McKercher boulevard near Wood River Middle School. All will be rented to BCSD staff at affordable price points.
“This will be a valuable recruitment tool for us,” said Blaine County School District Superintendent James Foudy, noting that the lack of affordable housing in Blaine County has made it difficult for the school district to attract and retain teachers and staff. “Forty percent of our teachers are ready for retirement. That’s more than 200 of the 500 staff members. So, Houston, we have a problem.”
The units will be a bridge to more permanent housing, with teachers allowed two years in the units, Foudy said. He pointed to a home on Winterhaven Drive built by the Wood River High School Construction Academy.
It provided a residence for a new teacher this year and that teacher was able to find more permanent housing after six months. That freed up the house for a new staff member from California who might not have been able to accept a position with the school district without the housing help.
“The projects on this lot will provide help for five staff members. And couples working for the school district will be given precedence,” Foudy said.
The project is a collaborative effort between the school district and ARCH, which will design, develop, manage and maintain the housing units. ARCH secured a good chunk of the funding for the project at its first fundraiser in July 2022 held on the lawn of Blair and Cynthia Hull’s home.
Attendees pledged $800,000, spurred on by a million-dollar match from Jeanne L. Herberger, who had brought a summer home in the Sun Valley area two years earlier. Herberger, a philanthropic giant in Phoenix, said she had researched the greatest needs for her new community and so wanted to help provide affordable housing.
“Our philanthropic approach to funding development gives the district complete flexibility to ensure that the homes are affordable for their staff. We would also like to thank our community of donors who have been incredibly supportive,” said Michelle Griffith, executive director of ARCH.
School Board Trustee Dan Turner noted the collaboration between donors, ARCH and municipal officials; “It will deliver critical housing solutions for our teachers and staff. The district is truly grateful for all the support we have received to get these shovels in the ground.”
ARCH just received a $200,000 donation from an anonymous donor bringing it very close to the total $3 million needed to complete the project, Griffith said.
ARCH will have its second annual fundraiser July 6 at the home of Lisa Rose and Marty Albertson.