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The Problem of Rising Housing Costs and Affording Rent on a Teacher's Salary

Starting teachers in Seattle without a Master’s degree earn around $44,000 a year. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is around $2,063 a month, making it tricky for many teachers to even afford to rent an apartment in the school districts they’re teaching in. As for buying a house, well, forget about it.

Seattle isn’t alone on this issue, but is just one of several cities in the U.S. where teachers often have to live outside the districts they teach in or shack up with multiple roommates. The issue of teacher salaries versus housing costs is just as bad in cities like New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Denver.

With the cost of housing in some of America’s most expensive cities continuing to rise, some school districts are finding themselves in a new role -- landlord. It might seem a bit odd, schools providing boarding for teachers, but it could become a growing thing in some of the country’s most expensive cities. San Francisco intends to set aside $44 million for public housing for school teachers. Inspired after hearing the story of a SF homeless teacher, the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, said he wants a 130-150 unit building that can house up to 3,600 of the city’s dedicated full-time teachers. The city has toyed around with the idea for almost 20 years, but only recently taken steps to see the idea through.

Colorado is also wrestling with the problem of making sure its teachers can afford adequate housing. Not only in small districts like Aspen, but Denver as well.

The touristy and expensive city of Aspen has 43 units of subsidized housing below the market rate for city employees. Cities like Denver and Boulder are now considering similar steps for their teachers.

A major fear for such districts is that recruiting and holding onto good teachers will be impossible if those teachers can’t afford an apartment in the areas in which they work. While federal tax credits help with the housing problem for some teachers, there are still those in that limbo area that make too much for the tax credit, but not enough to make rent in the area.

Alex Saldivar, a Denver-based teacher who moved to the mile-high city for a job said he and his girlfriend had to move out of their one-bedroom apartment when the rent jumped from $1250 to $1450. “They essentially pushed us out,” Saldivar said.

Things aren’t much easier 2,000 miles to the south in Miami. Kelly Hobby a former teacher with 10 years of experience said she left the sunshine state last year for Georgia after struggling to make their $1,400 a month rent and provide for a newborn on two teacher salaries. “It’s ridiculous. If you’re a teacher you cannot survive in Miami,” Hobby told The Miami Herald.

Detroit is working to bring good teachers into the city and keep them there, by offering educators teaching in Detroit a 50 percent discount on homes purchased through the housing auction program. Nikolai Vitti superintendent Detroit Public Schools Community District, said it’s a way to close the disconnect that currently separates too many of the teachers from the communities they teach in. “We need to go back to the days when our teachers are with our students consistently throughout the educational process and that will happen more if they live in the city themselves,” Vitti said.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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