High-priced tech hubs fuel affordable teacher housing woes
- In the wake of a huge land sale by the San Jose City Council to Google, the San Jose Unified School District has unveiled a plan to tear down some aging schools, send the students to newer facilities, and use the reclaimed land to created affordable rental housing units for roughly 300 teachers and other school employees, The New York Times reports.
- Though housing prices are causing issues with teacher recruitment and retention, and some teachers are having to commute to school four hours a day from areas they can afford to live, the housing plan is drawing opposition from some community members who don’t want to disrupt the status quo or fear the “stigma” of affordable housing may affect property values in the area.
- The idea is one of several that tech hub school districts and their community partners are exploring to address the issue: The Santa Clara Unified School District owns an apartment complex and rents units to teachers at below-market value, and Landed, a company partially financed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, helps teachers in certain markets finance their homes.
While economic booms bring prosperity to some elements of a community, they can cause additional headaches for district and school leaders. As Google is looking to expand in the San Jose area, Amazon is also expanding into Arlington, Virginia, and Queens, New York. The economic impacts in those areas are already predicted to affect teacher housing and to overcrowd classrooms.
Stagnant wages and the rising cost of housing are affecting people in many professions. A 2018 Fortune article reported that housing prices rose 6.3% nationwide in 2017, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case Shiller Home Price Indices. During the same period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that wages grew an average of only 5.4%.
However, the housing issue particularly impacts schools because of the role stagnant teacher wages and housing issues play in teacher recruitment and retention. Though the issue is worse in tech hub communities, teachers are being priced out of the housing market in many areas beyond those, The 74 reported in its analysis of an October 2107 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. According to that report, which explored 124 of the nation’s largest school districts, 80% of the districts had conditions where “a teacher with a with a master’s degree and five years of experience cannot comfortably afford a mortgage.”
In addition, 28% of first-year teachers can expect to spend more than 30% of their salary on rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
As communities look at economic development opportunities, it is important for education leaders to be a part of the discussion. Education is one of the most important factors in attracting businesses to a community, but the expansion of businesses and industry also affects school growth and teacher housing, as well. The voice of educators needs to be a part of that process.