Several new teachers who gathered Wednesday in a Steamboat Springs Middle School classroom agreed affordable housing provided by the school district would make Steamboat a more attractive place to teach. Pictured, from left, are new teachers Braden Wilson, Julia Ortiz, Jenn Spurlock, Robyn Albertini, Mindy Mulliken and Erin Dargis.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Several new teachers who gathered Wednesday in a Steamboat Springs Middle School classroom agreed affordable housing provided by the school district would make Steamboat a more attractive place to teach. Pictured, from left, are new teachers Braden Wilson, Julia Ortiz, Jenn Spurlock, Robyn Albertini, Mindy Mulliken and Erin Dargis.

School district, CMC discuss housing for staff



Shannon Carlin moved to Steamboat a year ago and has taken over for Chris Adams as physical education teacher at Soda Creek Elementary. Adams now is teaching at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

— For teacher Shannon Carlin, moving to Steamboat Springs was a challenge. She made it to town and found housing through a friend of a friend, but she now is faced with the high cost of living.

"It's a little bit intimidating moving to a mountain town that you know is going to be the next Vail or Aspen," said Carlin, a new physical education teacher at Soda Creek Elementary.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said helping provide affordable housing is one way the district would like to aid new teachers in their transition to the district. In an effort to meet that need, Cunningham will meet with Stan Jensen, president of the Colorado Mountain College system, on Friday to discuss the potential of building affordable housing for new teachers.

"We don't seem to have a problem recruiting teachers - the issue is retaining them," Cunningham said. "I certainly think that if we can find some reasonably-priced housing, it would help the teachers."

The preliminary idea is to use land the district owns - potentially a 9.2-acre site at Whistler Park - and a partnership with local organizations to provide affordable housing units.

"It's a challenge," Jensen said. "We're looking at a number of different things to help our employees, and certainly our incoming employees and faculty, to overcome challenges - especially the housing issue."

Jensen said the same problem is found at the college's other mountain-town campuses, such as Aspen and Roaring Forks in Glenwood Springs.

CMC provides loans to help employees make down payments on houses and to cover rental costs. The school district does not have any incentives or assistance in place, Cunningham said.

Several new teachers at Steamboat Springs Middle School agreed housing would go a long way toward making them feel more comfortable.

"People find this is a dream place to be, but after the first season, they don't have any savings," said Jenn Spurlock, a math and science teacher at the middle school. "If Steamboat doesn't learn to value low-paying, community-type positions, they're going to lose people."

Middle school resource teacher Erin Dargis said money was not why she moved to Steamboat, nor why she became a teacher, but she would like more financial security.

"As a teacher, you clearly know money is not the reason to take the job. It would be the same anywhere you go," she said. "(But) I can't think in the long term here."

Moving to Steamboat also must be measured in more than affordable housing or salary, said middle school Spanish teacher Braden Wilson.

"It's really more of a lifestyle choice," he said. Wilson said he enjoys taking his mountain bike out after work and living so close to a great ski mountain.

"The fantasy of it is our reason for moving here," he said.

Mindy Mulliken, a math and science teacher at the high school, said she would appreciate assistance in housing and would consider it a reason to move to a job, but she was not surprised by Steamboat's prices.

"I knew what I was getting into," she said. "I'm seeing how it goes. : You can make it work anywhere, if you want to."

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

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Steve Lewis 8 years, 8 months ago

This housing initiative the school is considering on behalf of its teachers is great.

They may have already taken this rational step in conjunction with the nearly complete Housing Demand Analysis: educating themselves on which options the teaches would buy into.

An equally important further step would be to educate their teachers on housing options, both deed restricted and free market. This would build end buyers for the school's project, spread housing savvy through an extended community, and help the teachers to secure longterm housing on an individual basis if they can't fit into the school's project.


Alan Geye 8 years, 8 months ago

Living in a resort community definately presents some economic problems for locals, especially in housing, whether they be teachers, police officers or others. To me, the challenge organizations face is whether we create unintended consequences by our policy decisions designed to help.

Seems to me the alternative with the least negatives might be to provide a) some sort of residentail mortgage guarantees and b) some sort of mortgage interest rate supplement to employee compensation (which would terminate when employment is terminated). That leaves the employee to live wherever he or she wants, close or far, large or small home. It's the least distortive of the real estate market.

In my opinion, one of the worst unintended consequences of providing low cost housing units which provide no ability for the "owner" to partake in future property appreciation is that it leaves that individual with no growing equity stake in their residence. "Real" homeowners have the ability to "roll" their equity appreciation into their next home which typically facilitates cheaper financing costs and gradually increasing personal wealth. That's effectively eliminated with low cost housing units.



carlyle 8 years, 8 months ago

Take a look at a recent NYC experience. NYC has more experience in rent control, low income, middle income, section 8, Gautreaux subsidies, whatever can be used to reduce housing costs.

Beancounter has it right. A direct mortgage subsidy created by the employer with, perhaps, our current affordable housing groups assistance might actually have some merit.

I believe that TIC, the one firm that pays significant salaries in Steamboat, provides no subsidy to employees that have to live in high-cost areas like Steamboat. Getting employers to provide a subsidy will prove interesting.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 8 months ago

Beancounter, Your begin with good suggestions, similar to what Yampa Valley Bank presented to the Housing Roundtable yesterday. Some big employers may become facilitators helping their employees become homeowners.

But you end with a false and discouraging account of deed restriction benefits. Only a slim fraction of teachers have any option to excercise your choice between free market or deed restricted ownership. You know as well as I do - without deed restrictions, many of these teachers will never own here at all. Even Oak Creek is looking at these ownership models.

Long term owners, with deed restrictions, will come out ahead of long term renters. Their equity stake grows at 3% (typically). That may take 3-4 years to outperform renting plus applying other investment vehicles, but it does grow equity. Equity they then have to leverage upward, for likely the first time in their lives.

Our teachers, policemen, firefighters, nurses, mental health workers.... they deserve to live and own homes here too.


peace 8 years, 8 months ago

Professionals, such as the types everyone talks of in these follow-up posts, need financial help with housing? I think they are being a little greedy here and/or naÃive. It seems like this is the first time this issue has presented itself. Could just be the rose-colored newbie mentality of moving here.

Odd too that these new people teaching our kids are saying we will be the next Vail or Aspen. (Well at least one person anyways) I suppose that she is not trying to sugar coat that grim reality. Almost any local would cringe at thoughts like those let alone allowing such blasphemy to be taught to our kids. (Sarcasm here)

In my mid thirties when I first picked this unique mountain town to move and live to/in, I knew I could not afford a house to buy. I started work then at a minimum wage job, and I rented a trailer by the river, saved, did other odd jobs, (as well as the minimum wage one), saved, and bought a different trailer by the river. Then I got married to another saver and minimum wager, we both saved, then we bought a bigger trailer, saved then bought a condo, saved and then choose Hayden as our little slice of heaven to buy a house. It only took seventeen years. I managed also promotions and increases in pay in the course of my new career in my new beloved area.

Perhaps if these new adults had better options for funding their educations, and were not saddled with so much debt at graduation, and did not receive every little meaningless award imaginable in their too short youth. (Or is it every imaginable award, you know for just showing up and not performance based and by award I mean meaningless little trinkets for meaningless or even effortless efforts). This "help me feel good about myself generation" may have the unfortunate belief that everything is easy. In addition, most of these people make decent money, in comparison to the unskilled workforce. Now do not get me wrong here, like some waiters or other servers, to me a teacher or a nurse or other health care professional can never have too big a salary. It is like there is no such thing as too big a tip. They do deserve all they earn and more, but it has been no secret that housing is expensive in a ski town. Especially one that will soon have the moniker as the new Vail or Aspen, then maybe Hayden could be like Minturn or Avon. Yippee!

I knew I could never afford any kind of starter mansion. I did manage to earn equity and while it is, true that most of all this happened before Genghis W, Bush was in office, and gas as well as milk was not over four dollars a gallons. Perhaps you could say I did have a hand up, (As well as little luck, a lot of sacrifice, and some ordinary common sense), but I never whined about getting a handout.


Steve Lewis 8 years, 8 months ago

Peace, Your "slice of heaven" that is your home came via an equity path that no longer exists in Steamboat. Your step up through trailers occurred before the Riverwalk trailers were dismantled, or Dream Island became the next development target. Trailer equity just ain't what it used to be.

I disagree with your many generalities. You are wrong that the teachers are lazy. Their line of work can be exhausting on levels a construction laborer couldn't imagine.

You are wrong that everyone can do it as you did. Incomes were much more capable of buying a home in your day than today. Particularly here in Steamboat.

You are wrong that this is the first time this issue has presented itself, and wrong that its source is a whining newbie mentality. Its source is your neighbors, and it has been a community goal since the Area Plan (SSCAP) was adopted in 1995, and updated in 2004. The SSCAP represents community concensus on multiple goals for our community. The affordable housing chapter reads as follows:

"Policy H-1.2: Support a variety of affordable housing options that are integrated throughout the community, but protect the character of existing neighborhoods.

Strategy H-1.2(a): Develop Inclusionary Zoning Standards Develop inclusionary zoning standards within Urban Growth Boundary that require a minimum number of affordable housing units to be built in new developments."

Welcome to the conversation your neighbors started in 1992. Its never too late to weigh in. Next year the conversation renews with the next Area Plan update. Please give the current plan a read. You will be impressed with your neighbors, I promise.


peace 8 years, 8 months ago

Steve Lewis,

Thank you. I welcome your discourse and even your disagreements. I will try not to be as disagreeable in my rebuttal. Please allow me the same courtesy.

The only generality I can find is where I lumped many of the twenty-something's into a group of "I want what I want when I want it, or at least give me a blue ribbon for just showing up because the fact that I am gracing you with my presence demands your adulations and reverence." An instant gratification mentality may have been more appropriate than the newbie one I first suggested. O course there are the exceptions to this, and any other type of twenty-something's attitudes.

I talked of MY OWN experience with home ownership, just as an example of what worked for me, however similar "equity paths" worked as well for a few other people I know. They still are working well today.

I cannot find where I called teachers lazy. I did however refer to how underpaid I thought they were.

I was at the first series of open houses and forums for discussions regarding future area land uses, additionally I volunteered to join the APCC at the onset but had to quit participation shortly afterward due to illness. I did remain vocal at many meetings, suggesting even some sort of green building inclusions.

I was a lucky lottery winner for one of the first deed-restricted homes, but felt that the downside was not worth the loss of autonomy. I also was able to afford more home in Hayden than would have been possible in Steamboat.

Sarcasm must escape you in regards to the affordable housing timeline I jokingly tried to refer.

For hundreds of years and for generations people started small and either stayed, and had mortgage burning parties, or used their equity to grow to a larger home or homes. To suggest that a viable "equity path" no longer exists in Steamboat simply is not true in my friends and my own experiences.

I am all for charity and its many incarnations.

In my opinion and experience there has not been a better time for a homebuyer in many years. However, I believe homeownership is a choice not a birthright. It is as attainable today as it was 20 years ago with the same tough sacrifices and choices, even in Steamboat Springs.


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