This past July, FLC responded to the housing crisis quandary by promoting Kelsey Deckert to the new role of Housing Strategy & Development manager. “The Finance and Administration office decided that this was a necessary role and that we needed to find a way to house the FLC community,” Deckert said. “We want them to be able to put down their roots.”
Deckert’s business administration background, history with FLC, and prior experience as a professional engineer made her the perfect fit for the role. While she was the project manager for Physical Plant Services, Deckert pursued her master’s in business administration through Boise State University — which will be completed in December.
All of this experience will aid Deckert in her new position, which is focused on developing housing solutions. “Housing was becoming a full-time job,” said Steve Schwartz, vice president of Finance & Administration. “We needed somebody who works solely on housing, and that’s why we hired Kelsey — she’s been an excellent asset.”
Specifically, Deckert oversees every stage of a three-pronged housing development strategy implemented at FLC. This three-pronged plan includes: (1) mortgage assistance for staff and faculty, (2) the development of new housing units for the FLC community, and (3) the forging of local partnerships with community partners to provide housing options off campus.
Deckert also works with local and nationwide partners like Project Moxie, a housing consulting firm based in the Southwest, and The Scion Group, an international campus housing company, to help FLC develop solutions to the housing crisis. These organizations know that the current crisis extends well beyond the bounds of campus or even the Southwest.
“This is not uncommon,” said Jaclyn Malone, associate vice president for The Scion Group. “It’s a very challenging housing market environment, as well as a development environment. There are issues like rising interest rates, high construction costs, and labor market availability.”
It’s Deckert’s job to work with these experts and produce housing solutions that thread the needle between cost-effectiveness for those in need, cultural sensitivity in planning and implementation, and rigid market constraints.
“I’ve jumped into the deep end,” Deckert chuckled. “I’ve been really blown away, though, with how many community members have reached out to work with us, and there’s a stronger sense of community within the local builders and developers than I even realized.”
"I've been really blown away, though, with how many community members have reached out to work with us, and there's a stronger sense of community within the local builders and developers than I even realized."
One of Deckert’s first projects is data collection through a survey of faculty and staff across campus. Once it’s collected, the data will be analyzed by Project Moxie and The Scion Group — who will use it to produce strategic recommendations to campus leadership. This process allows FLC community members to have their voices heard during the development stage of the three-pronged plan.
This work comes just in time to respond to the needs of the FLC community. As the housing crisis in Colorado continues to mount, students, staff, and faculty at Fort Lewis College are making difficult financial decisions. “Many of us are asking: Will I have enough money to eat, or will I have a roof to sleep under? Choose one,” said Carter Rogers, the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College president. “It’s a difficult time of intense trouble and danger.”
Deckert's work will be critical for FLC in the next few years as the anxiety around housing continues to rise. “If we don’t solve this, we could lose students and staff,” Deckert said. “We want to find a way for the people who want to be here to have the ability to stay. That’s who we’re working for, and that’s who we could lose.”