Housing crisis

Outrage welcomes proposal to address housing crisis for teachers

School districts in northern California and Colorado provide a stark new illustration of America’s housing affordability crisis and chronically low educator salaries, as superintendents reach out to local families for help. to house teachers who cannot afford to live near their schools.

“That this retrograde solution is being considered these days is appalling.”

A spokesperson for the Milpitas Unified School District in Santa Clara County, Calif., put a positive spin on the district’s decision to reach out to families in the district, telling the Washington Post By Friday only 53 households in the community had offered rooms for rent.

Families were invited this week to complete an online form if they “have a room to rent in your home and would like to share the housing opportunity with our Milpitas Unified School District educators.”

But readers of the paper’s story were horrified that housing prices in Milpitas left teachers with no choice but to find work elsewhere, with 10 educators leaving the district at the end of the last school year.

“I think my head is about to explode reading this,” one commenter said. “Asking college-educated professional teachers to sleep with their students’ parents has got to be the most insane idea I think I’ve ever heard. Not only is it completely outrageous, but it does absolutely nothing to address the real price issue. unsustainable rental rates in the absence of any common sense rent control laws and [regulations.]”

A number of readers called on the district to simply pay teachers “salaries that allow them to live with dignity in the communities they serve.”

While families taking in teachers may have been commonplace, one said, “that this retrograde solution being considered these days is appalling.

According to real estate website Redfin, Santa Clara County is now one of the least affordable areas in the country for teachers, with no homes currently on the market that would allow teachers to pay a third of their income in rent or housing. mortgage payments. .

In addition to losing teachers to other districts, Milpitas struggles to attract qualified educators, who earn an average of $73,536 in California — a higher salary than teachers in other states, but one that would allow teachers to pay for just 17% of homes in the state’s most populous counties in 2016, according to the Job.

“We lost some employees that we tried to recruit because once they saw how much it costs to live here, they determined it just wasn’t possible,” said Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. of the Milpitas Unified School District. NBC affiliate KNTV this week.

Housing prices have risen rapidly in California, with 30% of housing affordable for average teachers in 2012.

Vice journalist Israel Merino said the solution the district has found to house the teachers is proof that the United States is a “dystopia”.

“I didn’t think the housing crisis could get worse,” said labor rights advocate Joshua Potash. “Decommodifying housing! Free and decent housing for all.”

Milpitas was joined by Eagle County Schools in Colorado, a resort area where 38% of homes were vacant vacation homes for much of the year as of 2020, in calling on landlords to provide housing for teachers .

Eagle County School District Superintendent Philip Qualman sent 17,000 letters to community residents ahead of the new school year, asking, “Will you let someone from our district live with you/on your property? “

Although the area is popular with second home owners, the base salary for teachers in Eagle County is $47,160, which means a one-bedroom rental would have to cost $1,180 to qualify as affordable by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The average rental is much more expensive, Qualman said CBS News.

Denver-area school principal Kirk Henwood said the state’s education and housing system “has been in the news for the wrong reasons.”

“The fact remains that many teachers are not adequately compensated for their work and training,” Henwood said. said.

The housing affordability crisis has deepened in the United States in recent years, with nearly half of Americans telling Pew Research in October 2021 that the availability of homes people can afford with their wages is a problem. adult where they live.

Meanwhile, starting salaries for educators fell to their lowest level in a decade in the 2020-2021 school year, with the average teacher earning just over $41,000 at the start of their career.