Report finds dearth of available housing for Bay Area teachers, calls for inspired solutions

24 Sep
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African-American teacher

Most teachers in San Francisco and San Mateo counties don’t make enough to pay for market-rate rent or purchase a home near their schools yet make too much to qualify for housing assistance programs, according to a new report by the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

Comparing what teachers earn to market rate housing prices illustrates the severity of the affordability gap impacting Bay Area educators, finds the August report, Who Will Teach Our Children? Housing the Bay Area’s Educators. Even some families earning more than $150,000 annually cannot afford market rate housing costs, researchers found. The full report is available at https://bit.ly/2KWWGTZ.

It’s important to consider the wide range of employees that make up a district, including childcare workers, librarians and tenured teachers, and their individual situations. The financial needs of a single- teacher household wildly differ from those of educators who are married or have children, for instance. The spectrum is broad, and the housing affordability needs vary.

That is why state and local policymakers, as well as district leaders, need to get creative, said Fernando Marti, co-director of the CCHO, a San Francisco-based nonprofit comprising community-based housing developers and tenant advocates.

“Affordable housing finance is just catching up to the fact that the affordability crisis now extends to a much broader range of incomes, including teachers who used to be able to find housing near the schools where they taught,” he said. “We need to find new solutions to serve a wider swath of our communities left behind by today’s real estate market.”

Part of the problem is a lack of available affordable options. Researchers found in order to meet the needs of middle- and low-income workers, San Mateo County would need to develop an additional 10,000 new affordable housing units and San Francisco would need more than 16,300 new affordable homes by 2023.

Most affordable housing built in California has been funded through a combination of local, state and federal sources that are designated for households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), which Marti said may have worked for some educator households. Yet even with new federal tax laws stretching to include those earning up to 80 percent of the median — which expands the accessibility of affordable housing to most entry-level teachers — experienced teachers or households with two-income earners still earn too much to qualify for assistance, but too little to rent market-rate units.

To illustrate the issue, researchers found that the median household income was $98,500 for a two-person household in San Francisco, and $109,450 for a two-person household in San Mateo County. Neither household could afford to purchase a home in the Bay Area, where the median price is $960,000. Meanwhile, a one-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County will likely cost close to $3,000 per month, with San Francisco rentals exceeding that, researchers found.

If a family is paying more than 30 percent of their household income toward housing, they are considered rent or cost burdened by federal standards, meaning they will have less money available for basic costs such as food and transportation. The two-person households mentioned above should be paying no more than about $2,700 per month but the report found they are often paying significantly more.

Meanwhile, many local educational agencies and voters in high-cost areas have sought to help their educators live in the neighborhoods they serve through various initiatives.

In 2016, Santa Clara county voters approved a $950 million bond that included $150 million dedicated to multi-family rental and homebuyers programs targeted to households earning between 50 percent and 120 percent AMI. And as of May of this year, West Contra Costa Unified, San Jose Unified, Jefferson Union High School District and the Sonoma County Office of Education are among those LEAs that have approved the development of employee housing or are considering it.

Housing advocates in San Francisco are also working to get ahead of any issues that could prevent the county and city’s only school district and City College of San Francisco from converting underused or vacant buildings they already have into housing options for teachers and staff.

“We’ve got a ballot measure this November to pre-zone those sites citywide for teacher housing, so the planning code issues are all resolved up front,” Marti said. “We’re also going to the voters with an affordable housing bond with two specific set-asides to help teachers, $20 million for this kind of mixed-income rental housing, and another $20 million in down-payment assistance loans.”

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