To attract teachers, pricey California school districts are becoming their landlords apply for housing benefit

For the state, extending those tax credits to school employees is a zero-sum game—it designates a fixed amount for the program. What it does mean, however, is less money for other low-income people who would otherwise take advantage such subsidies.

Not everyone, of course, agrees that teachers should be the focal point of affordable housing policy. In areas where the supply of housing is constrained, providing special access to teachers necessarily comes at the expense of others who are just as inconvenienced by high rents and long commutes, if not more so.

“I’m a teacher, so I love teachers. But this pick and choose mentality about professions that we value and professions that we don’t seems kind of crazy,” says paavo monkkonen, a professor of urban planning at UCLA.

“we don’t want to allow all our service workers to live near us—just the ones we deem more ‘acceptable’ and more ‘meritorious.’”

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“there’s a lot of interest in doing this now given the conflux of rapidly increasing housing prices coupled with a growing teacher shortage in so many districts” says jeff vincent, the deputy director and cofounder of the center for cities & schools at UC berkeley. “and those things are clearly related.”

A recent survey by the learning policy institute and the california school boards association found three-quarters of public schools across the state reported being unable to fill all of their teachers positions with qualified, credentialed faculty.

That comes at a cost for students—particularly those who attend schools serving mostly low-income households, where turnover is highest. But the cost is also financial. According to a report by the national commission on teaching and america’s future, los angeles unified school district pays an additional $94 million per year in recruitment, hiring, and training costs just to keep up with staff attrition.How can i apply for housing benefit in san francisco and oakland, the annual price tag is over $11 million and $12 million, respectively.

“we know that teachers who are in schools with higher compensation are more likely to stay,” says anne podolsky, a policy analyst at the learning policy institute. “so if you think about housing incentives as just one form of compensation, we might have reason to believe that that would be associated with teachers who are going to stay in their schools longer.”

Now, it may be san francisco’s turn. With some of the highest housing prices in the country and teacher attrition rates that hover around 10 percent every year, san francisco seems a likely candidate for a robust teacher housing program. In 2015, the city’s mayor, ed lee, announced plans to build 100 new apartments specifically for teachers on district property.How can i apply for housing benefit the new law allows the mayor and school district to take one step closer to that goal.

“anywhere in the bay area you’re going to have challenges for housing and you hear of teachers driving long distances to get to work everyday,” says debra carlton, senior vice president of public affairs for the california apartment association, a rental housing trade group. “this bill is step number one; step number two is making sure that your local officials, your school districts, et cetera, see it as just as important as san francisco does.”

But it’s also clear that low-income housing tax credits—the affordable housing subsidies that the teaching housing act now allows districts and their co-developers to draw from—are finite. Last year, the state treasurer’s office received 163 qualifying applications for its competitive low-income housing tax credit, but only had the resources to fund 82 of them.How can i apply for housing benefit

And it’s not even clear that most teachers would qualify for subsidized units. According to mark stivers, who heads the california tax credit allocation committee at the treasurer’s office, the rents charged at complexes constructed or renovated with low-income tax credit support range from 30 percent to 60 percent of an area’s median income. That puts the upper income threshold in a city like san francisco at $45,250 for one person. Certainly some teachers make less than this, but the district’s average salary is $67,537.

Given the complexities, costs and delays associated with constructing housing specifically for teachers, there’s an obvious question: “why not pay them more?” says UCLA’s monkkonen. “that would be the easier thing to do.”

But is also assumes that schools could negotiate such a targeted pay hike with their respective teacher unions.How can i apply for housing benefit and whereas districts cover operational costs like salaries with funds from the state, which vary little from year to year, districts can be more creative in funding capital projects. For example, santa clara’s district paid for the casa del maestro project by issuing “certificates of participation”—financial instruments in which rent payments are divided up and paid directly to investors.

Beyond these purely financial considerations, there are other reasons that school districts may prefer brick and mortar, says lindsay maple, a graduate student researcher at UC berkeley’s center for cities & schools and a former teacher in oakland and east palo alto.

“this is a very visible way to commit and to show that they’re dedicated to finding a solution,” she says. Simply providing a plan to build housing may in and of itself serve as a recruitment and retainment tool.How can i apply for housing benefit plus, it’s more likely to grab the attention and sympathy of voters.

“if you have a school district with 6,500 teachers and you’re going to build a building with 100 units—do the cost benefit analysis,” she says. “does that really impact student outcomes on such a level where (a housing project) makes sense when you’re using that much money?”

In any case, for school districts, housing can be a risky business. When the santa clara district built casa del maestro, it funded the nearly $6.5 million construction project with borrowed money, with the interest payments on those bonds paid for entirely with rental payments from the teacher tenants. The financial transactions, along with the day-to-day operations of the housing complex, are managed by independent third parties. According to the district, this is all designed to protect district dollars.How can i apply for housing benefit but it’s also a unique—and uniquely complex—arrangement that other districts may have a difficult time replicating.

The cupertino union school district discovered as much when it announced plans to convert a former elementary school into teacher housing in 2015, only to drop the idea in the face of fierce opposition from local residents who opposed giving up school land for residential development, and questioned whether new housing would actually retain teachers.

And while the los angeles unified school district has had more success in developing affordable housing projects than any other district in the state, of the three housing complexes on district land, none can count a district teacher as a tenant. Because the projects were financed in part with state and federal affordable housing tax credits, the units have gone to lower-earning district employees, such as cafeteria workers and teacher assistants.How can i apply for housing benefit

Take berkeley, which is considering a workforce housing initiative. Whereas a project like casa del maestro is based on the notion that subsidized housing should be provided to new teachers for a limited time (seven years), after which the tenancy agreement ends, as maple from the center for cities & schools points out, this would certainly violate berkeley’s “just cause” eviction regulations.

Vincent applauds what santa clara has done: rather than placing young, inexperienced teachers in “dorm-style housing” for short period of time, the casa del maestro seems designed to keep educators in the district for the long-term. But he wonders how many school districts possess the expertise to pull it off.