New bill aims to ease affordable housing crunch for Durham teachers

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Friday, May 18, 2018
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A new bill would help fund affordable housing for teachers in Durham.

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- She's still feeling the afterglow from Wednesday's march for more education funding.

"I cried like all day," said Turquoise LeJeune Parker, a second-grade teacher at Durham's Eastway Elementary School. "I get chills every time I think about it."

But Parker is still facing the challenges of day-to-day reality.

She and her husband are both Durham Public School teachers - both with seven years of experience - and live in a one-bedroom apartment near RTP.

"We would love to live in a house, but we can't afford that," Parker said.

The bill introduced Thursday in the state House is aimed at easing the shortage of affordable housing for educators.

The legislation, sponsored by Durham State Rep. MaryAnn Black, a Democrat, would authorize Durham Public Schools to partner with private developers or companies to build low-cost rental properties on land owned by DPS or Durham County. It would be housing exclusively for Durham teachers or school support staff.

"The bill will allow the school district to let people have more housing opportunities," Black said. "But it will also help teachers and other personnel build wealth."

If it passes, Durham would join a short list of North Carolina school districts offering new approaches to achieve affordable teacher housing.

  • Dare County Public Schools recently built an apartment complex for teachers with lower-than-average rent.
  • Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools recently wrapped up a similar project including 24 units - all earmarked for teachers.

Both projects were financed with no-interest loans from the State Employees Credit Union.

"I think it's something that teachers really need," Parker said. "It would be nice if teachers had a livable wage - period."

Black told ABC11 that she's confident her bill will pass -- most local bills do.

"I hope this will be one other avenue for keeping the good teachers here in Durham," Black said.

But will we see this spread to other local school districts?

Parker said she wouldn't be surprised -- given how quickly other districts followed Durham's lead on the teacher rally. DPS was the first district in the state to cancel classes May 16.