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 has been 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, with both groups struggling to find available units in the first place. 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.
FLC hired housing consulting firm Project Moxie in June 2021. Their report recommends a three-pronged strategy to address student, faculty, and staff housing, including:
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 for the 2022/2023 academic year, 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 with assistance from consulting firm Scion Advisory Services, who specializes in student housing programming. 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 Fall 2025. Our intent is to leverage the resources at our disposal to build below-market-rate housing and pass those savings on to our students. In the interim, we continue to develop partnerships and identify creative solutions to ensure all of our students have a safe place to live.
The demand for on-campus student housing in the 22/23 academic year is unprecedented. As the in-town rental market became overburdened, more students than ever before turned to College housing and we are working hard to provide a bed for every head.
In previous years student housing has not been at capacity and there has not been sufficient demand to warrant a new facility. Since housing capacity was reached and exceeded in the 21/22 academic year, the College has dedicated resources to identify needs and is working to provide solutions.
New developments are a major undertaking that requires financial analysis, community input, environmental impact and infrastructure studies followed by formal planning, design, and construction. Construction alone is likely to take 18 months and can only occur once all other steps have taken place to ensure a high-quality and cost-effective solution is provided that actually meets the users’ needs.
The College has continued our work with Project Moxie to analyze the local housing market, assess employee housing demand, and crunch numbers on the financial feasibility of a variety of approaches available to address employee housing concerns. Each of the three prongs described above will be used to tackle the issue from a unique angle.
In December of 2021 the FLC Board of Trustees and FLC Foundation Board each committed to providing a $500,000 investment in a mortgage down payment assistance program, so a total commitment of $1,000,000. Staff is working with a steering committee and the Attorney General’s Office to implement this program through an external qualified lending organization in a way that will provide the most benefit for current and future employees without excluding access to other funding assistance that is available in the region. 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 many of the details are still to be determined.
Still to be determined. We are actively pursuing a contract with a lending organization, but have to navigate a complex legal structure.
To be determined with counsel discretion.
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.
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.
The College is pursuing strategies to build on-campus employee housing with assistance from consulting firm Project Moxie to guide. 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 2025. Our intent is to leverage the resources at our disposal to build below market rate housing and pass those savings on to our students. In the interim, we plan to continue developing partnerships and identifying creative solutions to ensure all of our students have a safe place to live.
A unique opportunity exists to work with local partners including local government, others in the education sector, and local developers to identify and develop housing partnerships. These opportunities are currently being explored but demonstrate a shared commitment to bold solutions.