A new study shows that California’s housing crisis is indeed getting worse. 53% of Californians say they are considering moving out of state because of the high cost of living, up 4% from last year. The number is even higher for millennials; 63% are now at risk of leaving. These statistics don’t bode well for some of the state’s most essential workers, who are more vulnerable to rising housing costs than ever — teachers.
The current housing situation is plainly unsustainable for school districts and communities. In a 2017 study, teachers on a median income of about $72,000 could afford less than one percent of homes available in the San Francisco market, which means many are forced to commute from the surrounding suburban areas. Teachers who must commute have less time in the day to devote to their students, as well as fewer interactions with the community where their students live. They’re also likely to leave their posts in search of areas with more affordable homes, leaving school districts with the burden of recruiting new employees at a high turnover rate. An estimate from last year claims that a whopping 88% of the demand for new teachers is due to teacher turnover.
School districts don’t have the power to fix the entire housing market to suit teachers’ needs and retain employees, but California has made it easier for them to implement one promising solution: workforce housing. The Teacher Housing Act of 2016 (SB-1413) allows school districts to create and operate affordable rental housing just for educators without violating federal Fair Housing Laws. It’s a plan that relieves the immediate need for housing while remaining sustainable long-term.
How it Works
Districts typically offer this subsidized housing to teachers in their first through seventh year. Rental rates are based on income but usually work out to about 60% of market rate, allowing teachers to save the other 40%. In this way, teacher housing acts as a stepping stone that allows more school district employees to eventually purchase permanent housing in the area.
A Local Example
After working with DCG Strategies on a housing study, The Mountain View Whisman School District near San Jose recently became one of the first Bay Area districts to successfully move forward on a plan for workforce housing. DCG’s report noted that the median home value in Mountain View is over $1,425,000, making local home ownership nearly impossible for Mountain View educators. A survey of the School District found that nearly four out of five staff members pay more than 35% of their income in rent or mortgages, and many were in favor of staff housing — 59% said they would live in subsidized apartments if provided.
Mountain View’s plan includes 144 rental units for staff members (19 studios, 87 one-bedroom, and 38 two-bedroom apartments) that will be built as part of a larger development project into the existing Village Lakes Apartments. The school board voted unanimously on the $56 million measure, which school employees will pay back in rent. Construction could begin as early as 2021.