Colorado mountain towns where teachers can’t afford housing have a new solution: Tiny homes built by teens

School districts in Aspen and Frisco are exploring beyond apartments and houses to open up new affordable housing options — 200-square-foot abodes — for educators and staff

Aspen High School junior Max Sherman constructs a tiny home as part of a woodworking class on the school campus, Sept. 12, 2023, in Aspen. In John Fisher's woodworking class, the students learn the skills of building a home from scratch.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

SPEN — Tucked behind Aspen High School’s woodshop, a skeleton of a house waits for the touches that will make it a home: a mattress to be placed in its loft, a sink and a refrigerator to anchor its kitchen and stain to be coated on its interior walls.

The wooden beams forming its frame, propped on a trailer, stretch more than 13 feet off the ground and hint at a cozy space of 200 square feet that, come November, will be ready for one of Aspen School District’s staff members to move in. The construction crew — made up of students in the high school woodworking program — is studying blueprints and adding windows between their other academic demands, like cramming for geometry tests and turning in homework on time.

Aspen is one of a few mountain towns in the state looking beyond traditional apartments and houses to try to make a dent in the sweeping housing crisis that has prevented many educators and school staff from living in the places they teach and work. Local data from the County Clerk, Recorder’s and Assessor’s offices shows the median home price in Pitkin County closing in on about $2.3 million. 

Both Aspen School District and Summit School District, which includes Breckenridge, are turning to tiny homes built by students as new options to house district employees. It’s the latest experiment among school districts in resort communities as they become more desperate to find affordable local spots for staff to live, one that also gives students an ambitious opportunity to learn construction and carpentry skills before they graduate.

But it isn’t a permanent fix, Aspen School District Superintendent Dave Baugh said.

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