The Durham Public Schools Board of Education recently gave a big thumbs up to a State Employees’ Credit Union proposal to build housing for teachers on the former Lowe’s Grove Elementary School site in southern Durham near Research Triangle Park.
School officials see the proposed housing complex as an important tool in the school district’s effort to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers.
“Every advantage we can gain gives us an advantage against our competitors,” said Hugh Osteen, deputy superintendent of operations.
Under the proposal, SECU would work with CASA, a developer and residential property manager that specializes in properties for special purposes such as those built for teachers and veterans among other groups, to build the housing development.
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Plans initially call for the construction of 24 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the site, which is near the South Regional Library and an SECU branch.
Pending final approval by the school board, which could come this spring, the construction of the apartment complex could be completed in the summer of 2019.
School board Chairman Mike Lee said the prospect of affordable housing for teachers is an exciting concept.
“It would sound really good to be able to say if you come work for Durham Public Schools, you have affordable housing, a very nice location and you’re going to be living around other teachers,” Lee said.
School board Vice Chairwoman Natalie Beyer endorsed the plan but said she wished North Carolina was a state that valued its teachers so there wouldn’t be a need for a discussion about affordable housing for them.
“I think we have to stop the narrative of teachers and law enforcement folks go into work because it’s heroic but actually compensate them what they are due,” Beyer said. “But until we get the state to that point, I think this is a great local solution to take care of our own.”
Beyer said she hopes the program can be expanded in the future.
The terms of the deal calls for DPS to donate three acres it owns at the site. The property has an estimated value of between $300,000 and $400,000.
Other “deal points,” such as what limitations could be placed on occupants, would be worked out as the deal progresses.
CASA CEO Debra King said the organization wants to be a part of the district’s effort to attract and retain good teachers.
“I don’t think there’s any more deserving population than school teachers to have a great place to live,” King said. “I hope we can help you with that.”