Addressing the housing crisis 

Fort Lewis College students and employees face a daunting housing challenge, one that has always been complex because of the scarcity of affordable housing in Durango and that is now being exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Faculty and staff who have chosen FLC and Durango as their home have experienced rising costs for homeownership and now students are feeling the effects of exorbitant rental prices in town. Our strategy for addressing the housing crisis has become a multipronged approach that assists the faculty and staff who want to live and work here and brings the cost of living down for our students.

Students

The pandemic and resulting rental market price increases hit students in unexpected ways but taught all of us that community is extremely important. At FLC, that means we are committed to providing our students not only safe and affordable housing but an environment that fosters belonging and well-being.

FLC has stepped in with responsive short-term strategies to house our students. With on-campus residence halls at 100% capacity, the College partnered with 1304 Apartments and La Quinta Inn & Suites to accommodate students who wanted on-campus housing with an affordable off-campus apartment or a subsidized room option at the hotel.

Going forward, we are actively pursuing strategies to build more student housing on campus. This solution will take time to be realized, but we’ve already identified on-campus land where apartment-style residence halls could be built and are moving forward on development aspects (e.g., request for proposals, community input, planning, and designing) with a target date of completion by the fall of 2024. Our intent is to leverage the resources at our disposal to build below market rate housing and pass those savings on to our students.

Employees

The housing consulting firm Project Moxie was hired in June 2021 to assist FLC with an employee housing recruitment and retention strategy for its faculty and staff. Their report recommends a three-pronged strategy to address faculty/staff housing, including:

  • A mortgage down payment assistance program
  • Development of campus land for workforce rental housing
  • Land unit development (for purchase) through partnerships with community entities

Mortgage down payment assistance program

On December 17, 2021, the FLC Board of Trustees passed a resolution in support of the mortgage down payment assistance program and committed to a $500,000 investment in the program. Additionally, the FLC Foundation Board approved its intent to partner with the College on this strategy at its December 9, 2021, meeting, also proposing a $500,000 cash infusion to the initiative. This initial $1,000,000 investment will be structured in the coming months and managed by an external qualified lending organization. The purpose of the program is to benefit qualifying Fort Lewis College faculty and staff with the goal of supporting attainable home ownership.

Human Resources will provide updates on the program as they become available as much of the details are still to be determined.

When will the program launch?

To be determined, but hopefully in the first quarter of 2022.

How will the College determine who gets assistance?

To be determined with counsel discretion.

Will there be enough funding to assist any qualified employee?

To be determined given that we don’t yet know the demand and that we may be limited by the availability of housing in an affordable and attainable range.

Why is the College funding this program instead of building more on-campus housing now for students?

Construction lead-times preclude immediate action when building capacity. The pandemic brought unanticipated consequences and housing pressure on our students, which we are committed to easing as quickly and efficiently as possible.

On-campus housing

The College is currently evaluating proposals for an owner’s representative who will partner with us in developing on-campus housing for both students and employees. Due to building lead times, this solution won’t be realized immediately, but the College expects the need for housing to only increase in the time of construction.

Land unit development in partnership with community entities

A unique opportunity exists to work with local partners, specifically local government and others in the education sector, to identify and develop housing partnerships. These opportunities are currently being explored but demonstrate a shared commitment to bold solutions.