Here's a real deal for teachers! Buy a house for half price! And that's exactly what teacher Alexander Chambers did last February. He was the first teacher in the nation to take advantage of Teacher Next Door, a new Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiative that makes homes available to teachers for 50 percent off the list price.
The Teacher Next Door program offers teachers 8,000 to 10,000 single-family homes, condominiums, and townhouses in neighborhoods designated by HUD for revitalization. To be eligible, a teacher must agree to live in the home for at least three years and teach full-time in that school district. The teacher must also be state certified.
Chambers purchased a $54,000 home for $27,000. "Altogether I've spent $10,000 on repairs, mostly to repair plaster walls and refinish the home's wood floors," Chambers said. "It's still a deal."
The value of his three-story, five-bedroom, brick house has nearly doubled since he painted the interior and completed various repairs to the home. It is now estimated to be worth $90,000, he said. He boasts that the home is located not only in the school district where he teaches but in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city.
When a real estate agent called him and asked whether he was interested in purchasing the home, Chambers was shocked. "I said, 'What drugs are you on? I need those too,'" he said.
"Doing the deal was the easiest part," Chambers added. Teaching is the hard work, said Chambers, who teaches severely emotionally disturbed children in grades one through three. "It's the most empowering feeling to go home to a house half paid for by the government. It can make you felt great after a hard day. When the government says, I'll pay for half of your house, it says they value the work you do."
Chambers sees the program as a way to attract more teachers to hard-to-staff school districts.
HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo credits the program as a way to rebuild communities while offering teachers a unique and affordable chance to purchase their own homes. The Teacher Next Door program is based on the successful three-year-old Officer Next Door program, designed for people who serve as police officers in their communities.
Teachers may also have the chance to buy a home outside revitalization areas through the new Dollar Homes initiative. Local governments can purchase from HUD homes that have been for sale for six months or more and were foreclosed properties for $1 each. Teachers are eligible to purchase those properties from the local government.
The Teacher Next Door program offers teachers a real deal not only on a home's purchase price but also on the down payment. If a teacher purchases the home through a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the down payment can be as low as $100. According to HUD, the Teacher Next Door initiative does not cost taxpayers any money because the FHA is funded by mortgage insurance premiums rather than tax revenue.
So far, 446 teachers throughout the nation have taken advantage of the Teacher Next Door program, said Lemar C. Wooley, spokesman for the program. The program has been the most successful in California. About 35 percent of the teachers who have taken advantage of the program reside in California.
Prices and conditions of the homes vary from place to place, Wooley told Education World. "It runs the whole gamut." Some homes need repairs and others are in great shape and ready to be moved into.
Since the program began, the average price teachers have spent for their homes is about $50,000, Wooley said. Homes sold through the program have ranged in cost from $10,000 to $100,000.
National teachers unions also hail the program as a way to attract teachers to high-need areas in low- and middle-income neighborhoods. "By combining an under-utilized asset -- HUD homes -- with an under-appreciated asset -- our nation's teachers -- everyone will win," said Sandra Feldman, president of the American Federation of Teachers, when the Teacher Next Door program was announced.
Bob Chase, president of the National Education Association, also applauded the program. In a statement he made at a news conference with Cuomo, Chase said the program may be a way to help reduce the looming teacher shortage facing our nation. "This new HUD program is an innovative way to help motivate talented individuals into the classroom," he said. "Too many of our teachers who rely solely on their own incomes cannot afford the American dream of owning a home. The Teacher Next Door program not only offers educators a chance to achieve that dream, but it helps build important ties between teachers and their communities."
Diane Weaver Dunne
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