Manatee Schools explores possibility of building its own workforce housing

Manatee Schools explores possibility of building its own workforce housing

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The affordable housing crisis is touching people working in many industries from hospitality to healthcare, and the education system is no exception.

School district officials in Manatee County say the shortage of affordable housing impacts their efforts to recruit and retain employees.

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“There are candidates who are applying or even some employees who are new to the district who just find that they can’t afford to live here any longer,” said Kevin Chapman, executive director of administration. “We have employees who drive from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Desoto, and Sarasota County who come to work here. It’s a long commute just to come work here because the great workplace that it is, but to drive that distance is because they can find affordable housing there.”

Chapman told News Channel 8 the district is looking at possibilities for workforce housing on an undeveloped nearly five acre plot of land in Bradenton. They’re currently exploring the possibilities with a local developer that focuses on attainable workforce housing rentals, One Stop Housing.

“Just like everyone else, they are having a real struggle in recruiting and retaining teachers, staff or employees period,” said Mark Vengroff, managing partner for One Stop Housing. “We find that across-the-board with a lot of employers. They are all saying the same thing. The school district is looking at solutions in order to try to come up with a way to at least combat that or potentially provide housing for their staff or teachers at an affordable rate so that they can live close to the schools, they can attract better teachers, more staff and really make it livable for them.”

During a workshop meeting in late May, Vengroff presented to the board plans for a project made up of 132 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units spread across two four-story apartment buildings with rent prices well below market rates.

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“If we can somehow figure out a way to provide or have the ability to provide a rental unit that is 30-40% below market cost, that would be a game changer here in Manatee County,” Chapman said. “That could really help us not only attract quality teachers, but also retain them here and continue to provide that quality education that parents and students here deserve.”

Talks of the project are still in the very early stages. District officials said the topic could come up during a school board meeting in the next few months.

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