- Recognizing the need to provide better housing options for teachers in the state, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is urging the State Land Board, which oversees the use of 2.8 million acres of publicly owned land in the state, to look for ways to provide affordable housing options for teachers. According to a 2017 survey, 94% of school districts in the state paid teachers an average salary that is less than what it costs to live in their school district, the Colorado Sun reports.
- One plan is already in the works. The land board approved an option to lease property in a Capital Hill neighborhood in Denver to a developer who plans to build an affordable housing project with 103 units with the aid of $2.2 million in tax credits and pay $200,000 back to the state each year to help fund public schools.
- The project, however, will be hard to replicate as most of the state-owned property is in areas better suited to farming, industrial sites, or recreation and because the state uses the property to generate funds for public schools as leases on the property have already produced $1.4 billion for schools in the past 10 years. Other creative solutions to the teacher housing issue are being encouraged to help solve the state’s teacher shortage.
Colorado is one of many states facing these issues. California enacted a law in 2016 that authorizes each school district “to establish and implement programs, as provided, that address the housing needs of teachers and school district employees who face challenges in securing affordable housing.” But even with that authority, school districts in the state are debating the best way to address the issue. The San Diego Unified School District is now exploring the idea of using land it owns to build affordable housing for teachers while San Francisco officials just voted against a similar plan.
School districts are experimenting with ways to solve the problem in an effort to attract and retain teachers. The problem is especially tricky in high-priced tech hubs where housing is out of reach for most workers in the state, leaving many to endure long commutes. Some school districts are trying to provide affordable housing themselves, while others are looking to partner with corporate and community organizations. Organizations such as Landed, based in California, partner with school districts to offer to help pay a portion of the down payment so that teachers can work toward home ownership. Other developers, tech startups, and nonprofit organizations are also working to solve the issue in specific communities. And companies, such as Facebook, are helping to subsidize rents for some teachers.
While helping to provide affordable housing is one way to approach the issue of teacher recruitment and retention, it may not always the best solution. These policies, so far, have little research to back them up and the only national study conducted by 2018 noted that 55% of former teachers said housing incentives were not an important factor. It's important for district and community leaders to consider the specifics of their own situation. For some school districts, affordable housing is not as big an issue as it is for others. And some critics also say that school districts should be in the business of education, not real estate.