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Decatur School Board, city of Decatur discuss future of CSD-owned homes

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Decatur School Board, city of Decatur discuss future of CSD-owned homes

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board, along with a planner from the city of Decatur, discussed what the school district can do with the four homes the board owns.

The homes were purchased by the school district in 2018 and two of them are currently being used as satellite offices for school psychologists, social workers and the Decatur Virtual Academy. Three of the homes are on Westchester Drive and the fourth is on South McDonough near the early childhood learning center.

The homes are near College Heights and Westchester Elementary School. They were purchased at the time in case the school district needed more space to expand the schools. During the work session, the school board and city staff discussed how options for how CSD could use those homes as teacher housing.

The homes range from 1,900 to 2,700 square feet. All are four bedrooms. Some have three bathrooms and some have two bathrooms, City Planner Kristin Allin said.

The city of Decatur is working on a variety of affordable housing projects, including addressing missing middle housing and re-allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in single-family residential areas.

CSD Superintendent Maggie Fehrman wondered how the school district could be part of that solution utilizing the four homes it owns.

“As we were digging through all the data from the strategic planning community input sessions, affordable housing for teachers and staff came up over and over and over,” Fehrman said.

The city has also discussed workforce housing to move people who work in the city closer to their jobs.

The average rent in Decatur is $1,950 a month. Allin said that CSD employees would need rent levels that are between 30-100% of the area median income.

“Early childhood and support staff, their pay ranges start at about $20,000, so the bulk of those are in the range of about 30-60% AMI, depending on how long they’ve worked for the city schools. Teachers and some of the higher salaries are 60-100% of AMI,” Allin said.

Rents that are 30-50% of AMI are typically see in properties operated by the Decatur Housing Authority. The Decatur Land Trust properties will eventually be 60-100% AMI.

“If we’re looking at 30, 50 or 60% AMI, based on the number of bedrooms…we would have 30% AMI for two bedrooms would be $651 max a month and 60% AMI for a two-bedroom would be $1,300 a month,” Allin said.

Table courtesy of Invest Atlanta.

Allin presented the school board with four options for what they could do with the four homes. Option one would be to rent all four homes. The second option was to add accessory dwelling units to each home, which are typically one unit or studios. The homes and the ADUs could then be rented.

The third option is to subdivide the homes and make them into duplexes or triplexes. The last option was to subdivide the homes into a duplex or triplex, and add an ADU.

“These could be great houses to subdivide,” Allin said. “That depends on how the house lends itself.”

This table shows the total rent for all four options for the homes owned by the Decatur School Board. Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur and CSD.

School board member Dr. Carmen Sulton also wondered if there was a way to partner with existing apartment complexes to provide housing at a discounted rate for teachers and staff.

Allin suggested that the land trust could partner with older apartment complexes to repair the buildings in exchange for keeping the units affordable. She would ultimately love for the land trust to purchase older apartment buildings in the city. Another option Allin knew of is employer assisted housing, but said that is a tough program to run long-term due to the cost.

As for next steps, the school board will have to decided what it wishes to do with the properties, and then Allin can help move processes forward. Fehrman said that if the school board wants to move forward with making changes to these properties, she would work it into the district’s strategic plan process and build it into the facilities plan.

“If this is something the board wants to do, I think as we go through strategic planning, identifying how we are going to house the people that have been there is doable,” Fehrman said.

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