Housing Teachers on San Francisco School District Land
By: Victoria Holliday
The ability of the San Francisco Unified School District to educate students depends heavily on the quality of its teachers. Developing and retaining excellent teachers is challenging, especially when considering the high cost of living in San Francisco. The average one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco costs $1,500 per month.
So it is no surprise that nearly one-third of San Francisco’s 4,587 public school teachers live outside the city, according to the United Educators of San Francisco. Additionally, 75 percent of the 1,463 teacher aides commute from around the Bay Area. The high cost of living in San Francisco often makes it impossible for many educators to live in the communities they educate.
Santa Clara School District Leading the Way
Santa Clara Unified Elementary School District recently took an unusual course of action to deal with the problem of affordable local housing for its teachers. Teachers at SCUSD earn a starting annual salary of about $45,000, and the area’s median home sale price is $539,900. The school district built 30 apartments for its teachers on school owned land. The Casa del Maestro (literally translated "house of the teacher") apartments are the first teacher housing community built in California. The units are awarded in a lottery system, and rent for 40% below market value with prices ranging from $800-$1,405 a month. The apartments help to retain teachers, while also allowing them to save money towards a down payment on a home in the area. Teachers can live in the apartments for up to 5 years. After which, teachers are eligible for Santa Clara School District’s mortgage assistance program.
Building Teacher Housing Provides a Strong Civic Return on Investment
San Francisco teachers’ average salary of $59,448 disqualifies them for subsidized housing, but is often not enough to afford the average cost of rent in the city. Numerous studies show that teachers, who live in the communities where they work, have much longer tenures in the school district. According to an entire body of work tracking long commutes with the “misery index,” teachers who live closer to their work would certainly come to school happier. They would have more time for lesson plans, student and parent interface and mentoring. Additionally, living in the communities where they teach allows educators insight into the neighborhood and the problems facing students and parents alike. Teachers can use this knowledge to better serve their students’ needs. Building teacher housing on district land provides a strong civic return on investment.
San Francisco’s Plan for Teacher Housing
In 2000, the San Francisco Board of Education looked into developing 50-100 teacher-housing units on district owned land. However, the resolution was rescinded later that same year. San Francisco Unified School District is currently asking developers to submit proposals to build affordable housing for district employees at 1950 Mission Street, property owned by the school district.
These housing units would then be offered to SFUSD employees below market rate. The developer would not have to pay for the land and the project would not generate or cost the district money.
Sounds like a great idea. But so many great ideas in San Francisco are stopped or slowed by politics, bureaucracy or just plain inertia. That’s why this is one plan we will keep following – and hopefully the attention of our community can help keep up the momentum for teacher housing in San Francisco.
One of the core issues we want to address as a Reset Community is better schools for our children. What better first step than keeping and attracting great teachers to San Francisco?