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Aspen Seeks To Subsidize Staff's Housing

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Aspen, Colo., may be home to movie stars, ski champions, and other celebrities, but local school officials are concerned the chic mountain resort is not home to enough of the community's teachers.

The local school board is looking to buy land or housing units to rent to teachers and other school employees on a subsidized basis.

"The housing here is just out of control,'' said Jon D. Seigle, president of the Aspen School District's board. Only a minority of the K-12 district's 120 employees can afford to live in the resort community, he said.

Rent for a two-bedroom apartment runs to more than $1,000 a month, and the cheapest home on the market is selling for $400,000, Mr. Seigle said. The starting salary for new teachers in the 1,000-student district is $21,000 a year.

"Some of our older employees got here when housing was still affordable,'' Mr. Seigle said. Many of those who arrived over the last 5 to 10 years, as the real-estate market skyrocketed, have had to find housing in neighboring towns that require long commutes.

School officials want more teachers to be part of the community.

"We ask a lot of our employees,'' Mr. Seigle said. "They have to work until six or seven at night, then many of them have an hour's drive home. It's really going to benefit us to have them here.''

The board purchased a three-bedroom unit this month, which will be made available to a school-system employee for next year. Officials hope to help three to five employees a year with the subsidized housing.

Land may be sold to teachers so they can build their own homes, or properties may be rented on a sliding scale, depending on the employee's income, Mr. Seigle said.

The Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is helping the school district identify suitable properties, he said.--M.W.

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