Courtesy Adobe Stock/Cris Kelly

The Vail School District in Vail, Ariz., is beginning to address the affordability crisis in their town, in southeast Tucson, by building teacher- and staff-only housing in the form of tiny houses. According to Sydney Scharer, a fifth grade teacher in the district, the lowest rent you can find for a house is $1,200. On a $38,000 annual salary, it was more cost efficient to live in Tucson, 25 miles away from her school.

But last fall, the district sent out an email to its staff, asking if anyone might be interested in living in a planned community of two dozen 300- to 400-square-foot homes on district-owned land. Scharer was the first to jump at the opportunity. “I wanted to be more in the community,” she says.

The tiny-home community is planned for a five-acre site at the intersection of Old Vail and Colossal Cave roads, an area that was once the historic center of an old railroad town. There’s Old Vail Post Office, a small adobe building constructed in 1908 that became a hub for ranchers and railroad hands, and across the tracks is Old Vail Middle School, site of the first school to open in Vail in 1903, when the town was a water stop on the old Southern Pacific. An original straw bale home will become a conference center and co-working space; an old feed store has already opened as a thrift shop, with proceeds benefiting the Vail Food Bank, also on-site.

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