‘A million dollars well spent’

By on July 18, 2023

Dare County Commissioners approve funding for teacher housing

The Run Hill teacher housing complex in Kill Devil Hills.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted 7-0 at its July 17 meeting to move $1 million from its fund balance to the Dare Education Foundation for expansion of its teacher housing units in Kill Devil Hills.

The Dare Education Foundation currently offers 24 housing units in Kill Devil Hills and 12 units in Hatteras for teachers employed with Dare County Schools at below-market-value rent prices. Teacher housing has assisted the school system in recruiting teachers for in-demand positions such as foreign languages, advanced math, technology and special needs, according to the foundation’s website.

The foundation plans to add between eight and 12 new units to its current teacher housing at its Run Hill Ridge site in Kill Devil Hills where there are currently three buildings, with the capacity to build a fourth. The foundation was short $1 million in funding, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten told commissioners at the meeting, adding that discussions on the issue between Dare County Schools, the Dare Education Foundation and the county started about half a year ago.

The Dare County Capital Improvements Planning Committee added teacher housing as a project to consider in the scope of other county workforce housing projects, he said. But staff ultimately found that $1 million of the fund balance could be used to move this project along, “faster than we’re able to get these much larger projects going.”

Staff had conversations with school board members and the superintendent “about the trials and tribulations they’re having in hiring teachers and having a place to house them—and losing good, qualified applicants that they can’t get to come here because they don’t have anywhere to live,” Outten said at the meeting.

“I’d just like to say, chairman, that this is a million dollars well spent,” Vice Chairman Wally Overman stated at the July 17 meeting. “The work that we’ve done, trying to, on this housing for the last two or three years…if we can get 12 units out of this million, we’ll be tickled to death.”

“Amen, absolutely,” Chairman Bob Woodard responded, before all seven commissioners—including Commissioner Jim Tobin participating virtually—voted unanimously to approve the budget amendment.

When reached Monday evening after the funding was approved, Dare Education Foundation Executive Director Barbara Davidson was ecstatic. “It’s the largest gift in our history, so it’s such a historic moment for us as an organization,” Davidson said.

When teacher housing was newly completed in in Kill Devil Hills in 2008, the foundation board was concerned they wouldn’t be able to fill the units, “but now we know it’s a proven model that works,” she said.

In the past three years, the foundation has sought to expand its teacher housing. Just a few years ago, and even without advertising the program, the waitlist was consistently 15 to 20 people.

“Now the waitlist is hovering closer to 30 people at all times, and that’s before you factor in the new hires the district is trying to bring—so the demand is only growing every single year that we wait,” Davidson said.

The project budget total is around $2 million for building the new units. The foundation was preapproved for a $1 million loan 18 months ago, but the Dare County Schools Board of Education directed the foundation to explore the possibility of building housing on Roanoke Island, she said.

“We basically fully explored that in the last couple of months and determined that there wasn’t an option that was going to make sense for us to move forward with that that wouldn’t cost a whole lot more,” Davidson said.

The school board then expressed an interest in the foundation moving forward with expanding the Kill Devil Hills housing. The foundation’s response was that it “would love to do that, but we need a million dollars still,” she said. The school board took that request to commissioners.

“I think it just speaks to how much our school district is hearing our teachers, in that housing really is a factor in their ability to take a job here [and] keep a job here—and wanting to address that serious need,” she opined.

The Run Hill Ridge development already has architectural and septic plans, which is why the per-unit cost is so low, she explained. The site where three buildings are located was designed to accommodate a fourth building.

The architectural plans are for eight housing units, but “we have met with an architect about modifying those plans to having some one-bedroom units instead of all two-bedroom units, and it could have up to 12 [units] based on the design of the lot,” she said.

The foundation hopes to fundraise at least a portion of the other half of its project funding so as not to need the entirety of the $1 million preapproved loan. No timeline has been established for construction, as the county funding just made the project viable, Davidson noted.



Comments

  • Greg

    NC Public School Teachers are underpaid. The NC General Assembly will not properly fund our Public Schools. We here have a tax base to help but the kids in the poorer rural counties are not being properly cared for as far as school funding is concerned.

    Tuesday, Jul 18 @ 3:33 pm
  • Mike Williams

    Why can’t they just pay the teachers more money, instead of funneling tax payers money to some private developers and contractors? The commissioners act like they just solved the problem! It’s scary

    Tuesday, Jul 18 @ 4:46 pm
  • Charles

    When teachers who live in this subsidized housing resign their teaching positions are they required to leave the subsidized housing shortly after resigning?

    Tuesday, Jul 18 @ 5:32 pm
  • OBX Dan

    Hey Currituck Board of Commissioners, this is what leadership looks like. Invest in your golden goose so that people can afford to live and work in Corolla or it will stop laying eggs.

    Wednesday, Jul 19 @ 4:05 am
  • Economics 101

    Wally is right, “this is a million dollars well spent.” This is public money being spent to provide worker housing specifically for our public school employees, rather than non-locals and/or non-worker retirees. This project sets a good example for other employers.

    The county commissioners have been throwing money at low income housing projects for the general public. These boondoggles will do more harm than good in attempting to address our local worker housing issue. For every local worker who wants to rent a subsidized apartment there will be dozens of non-local non-workers who want to rent a subsidized apartment to retire at the beach.

    We will never be able to build our way out of this worker housing problem by building more low income housing for the general public. This will just increase the demand for additional services.

    We can’t change the laws of supply and demand any more that we can change the laws of gravity.

    Wednesday, Jul 19 @ 1:37 pm
  • Travis

    Unfortunately with no other solution presently offered, workforce housing will probably be the best answer for the foreseeable future. (any realistic solution…a certain builder keeps pitching his “affordable housing projects” to local governments, but “affordable” is a very elastic word for him). Teachers are as good a place to start as any, but this needs to be expanded to consider other local government employees.

    There are already some small businesses that own property that they rent to their employees at more affordable rates. It’ll be interesting if we start to see WalMart housing and Target housing anytime soon.

    Wednesday, Jul 19 @ 2:11 pm
  • Penny

    How about the BOC get together with the BOE and RAISE TEACHER LOCAL SUPPLEMENTS SO ALL TEACHERS CAN AFFORD TO Move Here AND/OR Remain Here. Teachers have been waiting for over 20 years for a local supplement increase. I personally tried as president of the Dare County Association of Educators for years. I stood in front of the DC Board of Commissioners and asked them to help teachers and work with the BOE to increase the supplements. I got no real response from them, but I did get tremendous push back from the then Superentendant who accused me of lying about how the supplements are taxed at almost 50% because they are considered a bonus. It wasn’t until an actual Teacher paystub was put in front of him that he conceded I was correct, but never apologized. I could say more about him, but all I will say is I am happy he is gone.
    Teacher housing is needed, but a real supplement increase will help ALL local teachers, not just the lucky few who get into teacher housing.

    Friday, Jul 21 @ 1:11 pm
  • Dave C.

    They have raised the rent from $750-$1050 in the last 3 years. It’s over half a new teachers paycheck to live there now with another increase in the future to raise rent to $1150. Not affordable teacher housing when it’s 50% of their take home pay.

    Sunday, Jul 30 @ 3:42 pm