San Francisco Is the Latest City to Create Affordable Housing for Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week may have passed, but it’s hard not to have a ton of 24/7/365 respect and love for all the teachers out there molding the minds of the next generation.

Sadly, though, teacher paychecks don’t always reflect this. The national average starting salary of a teacher is about $30,377, according to the National Education Association.

By comparison, the NEA reports computer programmers start off making $43,635, entry-level public accounting professionals make $44,668 and new registered nurses make $45,570.

The average teacher’s salary also doesn’t reflect all the unpaid overtime one might put in grading papers or coming up with lesson plans. Nor does it take into account how much teachers pay out of pocket to buy school supplies or treats for their students. An article by Money last year said most teachers spend more than $500 per year on supplies using their own money.

With Rent Jungle reporting the average rent for an apartment in San Francisco to be about $3,703, some teachers in that city are struggling to afford the basic necessity of providing a roof over their own heads.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently profiled one such teacher, Etoria Cheeks, who was homeless despite having a master’s degree and a salary of about $65,000.

“I am disturbed as anyone to have a teacher who’s homeless,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. “We have an immediate problem right now.”

The idea of creating affordable teacher housing has been bouncing around the city for nearly 20 years, but last week Lee brought the concept one step closer to actualization by earmarking $44 million and selecting a site to construct 130 to 150 rental units for teachers, the Chronicle reported.

Though the plan still has to be approved by the city school board, the complex could be ready by 2022. Details have yet to be worked out regarding which teachers would be able to qualify for the rentals, and rental rates were not mentioned.

Though San Francisco’s plan is making the news right now, it isn’t the first city to have this idea.

Similar Efforts Across the Country

Yahoo News reports other cities have created housing for teachers — including Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; Asheville, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California.

In 2014, city officials in Milwaukee approved a plan for a 75-unit housing complex for teachers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

In the beginning of this year, over half the 204 units at a new mixed-used development called Teachers Village in Newark, New Jersey, were completed and occupied by 70% teachers and educators, reported.

In Asheville, North Carolina, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools partnered up with the county and others to develop a 24-unit affordable housing complex for teachers that was set to be completed this month, the Citizen-Times reported.

The Los Angeles Times reported two of the three affordable housing projects the Los Angeles Unified School District developed in hopes of reducing teachers turnover were fully occupied last October, but no teachers resided there.

Ironically, the salary levels for teachers were deemed too high, but other lower-income school district employees, such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers and special education assistants, were able to rent the majority of the 156 units. The third housing project was still under construction.

A Trending Topic

Apparently, the issue of affordable housing for teachers is pretty widespread.

In March, the News-Press reported school district members in Lee County, Florida, were discussing a future development of one-, two- and three-bedroom units to be rented to teachers at 15 to 20% below market rate.

“This isn’t instead of increasing wages,” Angela Pruitt, the school district’s chief human resources officer, said. “It is something we are looking at doing in addition, to help keep teachers here.”

An article published in January by The Atlantic reported that Denver Public Schools officials were also exploring the idea of affordable teacher housing in Colorado’s capital city.

Perhaps affordable housing for teachers will be a trend to be implemented in other locales soon. Or maybe school districts will get on board with paying teachers salaries that will allow them to live in the cities they teach — without necessarily having to seek out subsidized housing or to supplement their wages with a side gig.

After all, these professionals are building up our future leaders and workforce. Our appreciation of their roles should reflect that.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.