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New affordable housing is on the horizon for Blaine County School District employees

By April 19, 2023News

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.

By Abby Davis KTVB7

Watch the video here.

HAILEY, Idaho — Living in the small mountain towns of Blaine County comes with a steep price tag, one many people can’t afford.

Those high price tags are putting the Blaine County School District in some trouble. Superintendent Jim Foudy said sky-high housing prices and rents impact their ability to recruit new staff to the district.

That’s a problem, considering about 50% of the district’s staff are eligible to retire in the next five years, he said.

“We’re trying to get ahead of that, and building workforce housing is part of the solution,” Foudy said.

The district already has one house for employees, and that house has a waitlist. So, they’re building more with help from ARCH Community Housing Trust.

Foudy said they hope to break ground on a 5-unit affordable housing complex for district employees this summer. Renderings of the complex show a four-plex with a detached accessory dwelling unit, meaning five employees and their families will live there.

The district leased the land to ARCH for 99 years. The local organization is currently raising money to develop the site. ARCH executive director Michelle Griffith said they’ve already raised more than $1.5 million from community members and the Murdock Foundation.

“The community has been amazingly supportive, including the neighbors,” Griffith said. “Some had some concerns and some requests of us, most of which we were able to meet.”

City Council unanimously approved the project after rezoning the site located next to the district building. Councilmember Kaz Thea said they were happy to make the changes.

The site normally would be three units on an acre of property. She said the five units will now be built on a third of an acre.

“We definitely want to be part of the solution,” Thea said. “If you can’t hire teachers and staff to run a school and have a really dynamic school district, then you’re not going to be as good at town.”

Griffith said employees living in the complex will pay 30% of their adjusted gross income.

“The goal here is for the school district to allow these households to save money for a down payment to buy a home and become permanent members of the community,” she said.

For some people, it may take a while to save up. Foudy said certified staff with the district earn about $70,000 on average every year, while uncertified staff earn about $30,000 on average.

Once someone has enough money to buy a house, there aren’t many options. Noah Hendricks, Sun Valley Real Estate realtor, said inventory is at an all-time low and that there are only four properties in Hailey under $750,000 and readily available.

“It can be disappointing for buyers,” he said.

Blaine County isn’t the only area having difficulty recruiting employees because of high rents and house prices. Griffith said they’ve also talked to a school district in Bend, Oregon, and presented their plans to the Idaho Association of Public Schools.

The school district and ARCH plan on developing two other sites for employees as well.

Foudy said he hopes these new affordable housing options give future recruits a bit more flexibility when deciding whether to take a job in Blaine County.

“It’s heartbreaking to see what people go through,” he said. “But it’s a fascinating challenge, and I think we thrive on creative solutions.”