In that article, I mentioned that Durham had other options than to try this through legislation. In this article, I’ll delve into the ‘why’.
Picking up from where I left off with the video of the update on ‘teacher housing’ given by Durham Board Chair Mike Lee, he asked if there were any questions.
Well, Durham County Commissioner Heidi Carter had one.
In the video at the bottom of this article, there is a back and forth between the two.
Carter raises the question of whether or not the investigation of the option other districts had taken to accomplish the issue of teacher housing had thoroughly pursued.
Apparently, Carter had found that several counties in the state had created affordable teacher housing and it did not require legislation.
Lee never really answers Carter’s question, although she later says he did.
The idea that Durham’s push for legislation instead of the other options that other districts have used is political seems more likely the case once one investigates the other option Carter mentions.
Efforts in certain districts to create teacher housing are being driven by loans provided by the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union Foundation (SECU).
The initial page about these loans was either moved or deleted, but the Wayback Machine has a copy. Dare, Hertford, and Hoke all have set up teacher housing through SECU loans. The most recent addition is a development in Buncombe County.
Here are links for more details on these housing options:
- Buncombe – Baldwin Teachers Campus – Rent is $900/month and includes “some assistance with utilities.”
- Dare – Run Hill Ridge – Rented below market value at $850 per month, the 2-bedroom, 2-bath units are an affordable option for teachers who may not otherwise be able to afford to live in Dare County.
- Hertford – There is no additional link provided for Hertford point.
- Hoke – Echo Ridge – No rent price listed on the page. You have to call HR at (910) 875-3658.
It appears that at least two of the districts, Dare and Hertford, have also set up a foundation of their own to handle the property and financial dealings associated with the projects.
According to a some-what activist article digging into the teacher housing idea, the Hertford foundation will be making a profit down the road and that money will go back into the district.
“After three years the mortgage will be paid off and then Hertford County Schools Foundation will have approximately $150,000 a year to support students in Hertford County. That will be so exciting,” said James Eure, a senior vice president at State Employees Credit Union (SECU) in the article.
This foundation route has the money paid in rent by teachers going right back into their employer, the school district. I am sure some folks are fine with that proposition, but others might not be.
The article is written by NC Initiatives, who state on their website that they formed an alliance with NC Housing Coalition, who is dedicated to increasing affordable housing options. Durham is a member of that coalition.
While it sounds like a great idea, several of them have had to open up the properties to include any public employees in the area in order to keep vacancies down.
Bear in mind, the Durham Board is moving forward with plans to increase the supplemental salary to their teachers next year. Starting teacher supplements are set to be raised to $5,600 and the maximum will jump to $11,895.
There is a transcript of back and forth between Lee and Carter below the video, however, that transcript does not include the additionally related remarks by other participants at the meeting.
Lee: “Are there any questions about that?”
Heidi Carter raises her hand.
Lee: “Yes Ma’am?”
Carter: “Mike, did anyone follow-up on Mayor Schewell’s email to … Gus Lowell… if he’s still here… if he contacted.. (lost sound).”
Lee: “Is your mic on?”
Carter moves closer to the mic.
Carter: “So, he (Schewell?) emailed Jama Campbell of the SECU Foundation and she gave a good summary of how other projects in North Carolina – I think in Buncombe counter, Hertford County and Dare County have done this without that legislation? Allowing the transfer? Most of theirs appears have been through some sort of ground lease where the school district works with whoever the partner is through this, you know, ground lease. And so, I’m missing this as a very ‘surface level’ but I just wonder if we should follow up on this?”
Lee tries to cut in several times at the end of Carter’s comment.
Lee: “I thought we already went down that path and was advised that the local legislation was the best opportunity?”
Carter: “Well, this was an email that came out in the middle of October, so I never saw any follow-up from that.”
Lee: “Yeah so .. um… we… before.”
Carter: “Maybe this is the follow-up from that?”
Lee: “I don’t know that’s a follow-up. I think it was an idea that Mayor Schewell was putting forward with that but that idea had already been …um… investigated.”
Carter: “I don’t know. I don’t have a good sense about whether we’ve exhausted all the possibilities. I mean, I see these other communities who have done it and by golly, I want us to do it. We seem like we have the pieces in place… I don’t know.. I know everyone wants to do it. When I read – I’m certainly not a lawyer – when I read all this stuff it feels like there is still an opportunity to try to push this forward.”
I mentioned in the previous article that Durham Board Member Unruhe also made remarks about why Durham Public Schools was not pursuing the options other districts had for teacher housing.
“What the attornies are saying to us is, in their opinion, our best option continues to be local legislation,” said Unruhe. “And their recommendation to us, given the changes, was ‘let’s give this one more shot’ because it’s cleaner, it’s a more efficient way to do it.”