There’s no doubt, Prescott, Arizona, is picturesque. There is a quaint downtown, there are lots of shops. But there’s one thing that makes moving there less than desirable.
“The rent here is higher than it needs to be for a small town,” said Alex Cooper, a Seattle transplant.
He pays $500 a month for a room in Prescott. He said he paid $600 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, a city known for a sky-high cost of living. In Prescott, he shares the house with four other people.
So how much is it for a one-bedroom apartment in Prescott?
“If it’s a nice place, you’re looking at anywhere from $1,400 to $1,800,” said Stan Goligoski, the executive director of the Yavapai County School Superintendent’s Office.
He said the lack of affordable housing is scaring off teacher recruits.
“Even if they are very interested in the district, when they look around for a home they are turning it down because they can’t figure out how to (afford to) live here,” said Goligoski.
So the county’s superintendents, who meet monthly, got an idea. If they can build homes for teachers on school-owned land, they can rent to them at a reduced cost. They believe that rent could pay off the cost of the homes in approximately a decade, then the rent later could go to maintenance.
“This is one of the best ideas we’ve had from our superintendents,” said Goligoski.
The school-district-as-landlord concept is already in place in high-cost areas like Aspen, Colorado, with subsidized options offered to teachers in expensive cities like Boston and San Francisco.
Prescott Unified School District would like to add about 18 small homes to six acres. They may be manufactured homes, or homes built by local students as a way to teach them the construction trade. Mayer Unified School District has 80 acres with some utilities already in place. Its plan is four homes to start, then they will gauge the interest and decide how many more to build.
The Need Is There
Just recently, a current teacher emailed him a story that solidified what he already knew. The need is dire. She said she plans to live in her vehicle until her son graduates and she can move to another state where she can afford to work and live. If this teacher community comes to fruition, she believes she could afford to keep a roof over her head.
“Teachers should not have to live out of their car. They should not have to use food stamps to feed their families. That’s absolutely what we’re dealing with here, ” Goligoski said.
There are more steps before final approval, including the green light from school boards. Goligoski said ideally, there could be homes built by fall.
Written by Angie Koehle for KNXV.
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