Collier school district-owned land could turn into affordable homes for teachers

Fox 4 News | By Kaitlin Knapp | August 3, 2022

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.  — Collier County Public Schools could potentially see a piece of district-owned land be converted into affordable homes. It’s an idea at this point, but Board Chair Jen Mitchell would like to see it come to life.

The land is a 35-acre parcel near Manatee Elementary the district bought 50 years ago for $180,000. Mitchell says the Board has 13 empty parcels altogether, buying them with future growth in mind. Her idea is to find a developer to build homes, potentially modular. The cost of building them would fall back on the developer, not taxpayers.

She said it would be a public-private partnership. The housing development could meet the needs of many essential workers. Currently, Rent Cafe says the average price for an apartment in Naples is a little more than $2,200.

For perspective, Mitchell says the average Collier County teacher makes $58,220 a year.

“With the rising costs it makes it very difficult,” said Jessica Hayes, a third-grade teacher at Herbert Cambridge Elementary.

Her rent started off at $1,300 about four years ago. It jumped up to $1,500 before drastically jumping to $2,200 in the past year.

She and her roommate, also a Collier County teacher, have to pinch pennies to afford a home.

“With having a teacher salary, it’s very difficult to afford that, but as of right now we’re making do,” Hayes said.

Mitchell said the Board is trying to move the needle and do something about the affordable housing crisis.

“We could partner with a developer who could come in and offer some type of temporary affordable housing community,” Mitchell said. “It would be an alternative to these really high rents.”

She says CCPS wants to be a part of the solution for the community, so it wouldn’t just be for the district said.

“We would like to have a carve-out for our friends at the Sheriff’s Office and NCH for example,” Mitchell said.

When you look at the district’s website, you can see why. According to CCPS, the district has 274 open positions and about 60 of those are teachers.

The idea is something Hayes would use if it becomes a reality.

“I feel like, at this point when I decide to move out, I need to have a backup plan,” she explained. “Tomorrow is not promised, so you want to be able to go out and enjoy yourself, but at the end of the day it makes it difficult when you have to budget to afford to live somewhere.”

At this point, it’s just a piece of land. Mitchell says the proposal would have to eventually get approval from County commissioners.

Fox 4 is going to continue to follow this proposal and bring you any latest developments.

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