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The Daily Tar Heel

Durham affordable housing apartment complex under discussion for development

The affordable housing nonprofit CASA has proposed to build an affordable apartment complex for Durham public school teachers. 

The Triangle-based nonprofit hopes to finance the project with the help of the SECU Foundation, the philanthropic branch of the State Employees' Credit Union of North Carolina. 

Plans for the project are still in preliminary stages, and many details of the proposal are under discussion between the SECU Foundation, CASA and the Durham Public School System. While the Durham Board of Education has approved the plan, the SECU Foundation has not received a final proposal from CASA. Once the SECU Foundation receives the proposal, it will be vetted and presented to the Foundation’s Board for final approval. 

CASA Housing Developer Jess Brandes is hopeful that the new 24-apartment complex will be built and become available to Durham Public School teachers in the next three years.

“Our hope is that as soon as we can have site control and have our financing in place, we would be available to move forward with design and construction as soon as possible,” Brandes said.

The SECU foundation has worked with other nonprofits in counties across North Carolina to finance similar projects, for instance, the Williams-Baldwin Teacher Campus became available to Asheville teachers in May.

“Teacher housing falls in line with our goal to improve housing in North Carolina and help people gain access to housing where they have limited access,” said Jama Dagenhart, executive director of the SECU Foundation.

CASA is working with the Durham Public School System to determine the number of apartment options based on the needs of its teachers.

“We got survey information from Durham Public School System teachers early on in the process to learn what teachers would prefer and what they are looking for,” Brandes said. “From that information, we felt that two-bedroom apartments were in more demand.”

The price for teachers to lease the apartments has yet to be determined. However, the SECU Foundation and CASA predict the rent structure would likely be similar to existing SECU-financed complexes. 

In the Williams-Baldwin complex, apartments within the complex are exclusively available to teachers working in the district. 

The starting salary for a Durham Public School teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no prior teaching experience is $39,375, while the average rent for an apartment in Durham currently exceeds $1,000 per month.

Riverside High School Social Studies teacher Thomas Bodo said he recognizes the need for an affordable housing option for teachers. 

“Anything that improves living conditions for public servants in our community is an important step toward keeping Durham diverse and livable,” Bodo said. 

Bodo said he believes the CASA proposal fails to address the high rates of beginner-teacher turnover in the school system, as teachers are expected to assume a greater workload with fewer resources and less assistance.

“This is nice, but it is not at the heart of the problem, and the district should be more receptive to the needs of teachers if it is going to keep them," he said.


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