Friday, October 3, 2008

Local teachers move into community housing

Scott/Northwood building provides affordable option

Express Staff Writer

Veronique Forgeat, a languages teacher at The Community School, moves her first box into her new home Friday afternoon. Forgeat said home ownership in the Wood River Valley always seemed out of reach. The community housing program has changed that. Photo by Willy Cook

Brad Stansberry and Veronique Forgeat are working to educate young minds in Blaine County, but until recently, owning a home here is something neither of them thought possible.

Stansberry is a second-generation Blaine County School District teacher at Hemingway Elementary and Forgeat is a languages teacher at The Community School. As they began moving in to their new homes at the Scott/Northwood Building in Ketchum's light-industrial area this week, both said they're grateful to have homes in the center of their community. And both said moving south to Hailey, Bellevue or beyond was never an option.

"No, of course not," Forgeat responded when asked if she thought she would ever own a home in the area. "I wanted to be in Ketchum. That was a big requirement for me, and there was absolutely no way I could afford anything in Ketchum, even a studio. This affordable housing program was truly the only way to do it for me."

Forgeat, 38, has been living, working and playing in Ketchum since 1998. She said it crossed her mind in recent years to leave.

"People leave because they can't afford it," she said. "There was absolutely no way I could have afforded anything."

Forgeat's original application to the housing authority was in January 2005. According to Office Manager Nancy Smith, she rose higher on the authority's priority list by obtaining a loan pre-qualification letter and by updating her application information in 2007 and 2008.

Stansberry, 32, grew up in the Wood River Valley and said the Blaine County School District Foundation helped him purchase one of the community homes as well. The foundation provided a $10,000 grant for a down payment.

"I always figured that at some point I'd own, but I figured it might be when I'm a little older and have a joint income," he said.

Stansberry said he, like many his age, is juggling loans from college and graduate school on top of regular life expenses. Home ownership always seemed out of reach.

"It's been great," he said. "It definitely feels bigger than I thought it would walking in when it was just drywall. It's a nice step in the right direction of becoming an adult."

The new Scott/Northwood commercial building is at the north end of Ketchum's light-industrial area and includes offices, market-rate condominiums and 15 deed-restricted community housing units.

The 15 condominiums on the second floor range in price from $105,870 to $423,493. The smallest is 407 square feet and has one bedroom. The largest is 1,122 square feet and has two bedrooms. All but three of the 15 have sold.

Smith said the authority's database of prospective community homebuyers includes about 400 area residents, but it is being updated. By the end of 2008 only applicants who have applied or re-submitted in 2007 or 2008 will be included in the file.

A 2006 housing needs assessment commissioned by the authority indicated that about 3,000 people commute to work in Blaine County daily.

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