Volusia County Schools hears proposal to build affordable homes for employees

3 days ago 120

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – School districts across Central Florida continue to face a shortage of teachers, and as the population booms, the need is only getting greater.

Some local districts are now looking for ways to stand out as they often compete over the same small pool of candidates. In Volusia County, that could mean providing them with an affordable place to live.

Filling the vacancies is even more challenging for schools in low-income zip codes, like 32114 in Daytona Beach.

Brandon Wingfield teaches physical education at Turie T. Small Elementary, a Title I school in 32114. According to census data, more than half of children who live in that zip code live in poverty.

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“You see students come in here in need,” Winfield said.

It makes his job more challenging -- and more costly. On top of trying to make ends meet himself, Wingfield said he often helps students buy clothes and extra meals.

“You have to show (the children) you don’t have to go out and take from anyone,” Wingfield said. “If I work hard, I can you show you I can work hard and be able to give back to you.”

Florida teachers make an average of $51,000 per year, so money is tight as it is, especially in today’s economy. With housing only getting more expensive, becoming a homeowner just isn’t in the cards for many teachers.

One organization is working to change that, though.

Forough Hosseini is the founder of Homes Bring Hope, a non-profit working to reduce the poverty level in 32114 by making home ownership more affordable by selling homes to clients at whatever price they qualify for and providing down-payment assistance.

During a workshop in Volusia County last week, Hosseini made a pitch to school board members.

“I’m here asking you to please give me whatever lots you have in 32114,” she said.

The district owns four parcels along Fulton Avenue near The Chiles Academy. The idea is that instead of the land staying vacant, it could be turned into affordable homes for district staff.

“As our community grows, the need for teachers and the need for school staff certainly grows,” Volusia County’s Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rachel Hazel said. “This is just one more incentive to come to Volusia County and work for our school system.”

Homes Bring Hope says 90% of the people they’ve helped pay less in monthly mortgage payments than what they paid in rent.

“Affordable housing is certainly something we want to use as a recruitment tool,” Hazel said. “This is a chance for homeownership for our employees, so we’re excited about that.”

The district says nothing is finalized, and the proposal will likely be brought up during future school board meetings.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Wingfield said. “Teachers really have all the ambition in getting a home, so a program like this would be great.”

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