In order to attract and retain teachers, school districts are housing teachers through affordable housing programs.
School districts struggling to fill vacant teaching positions have been scrambling to offer teachers perks to draw them to apply. Despite pay increases and extensive bonuses, some schools just cannot gain interest. Although the state of the public education system itself is a main factor, some area teachers have grown more dedicated due to a new offering. Some coastal districts are offering subsidized housing for teachers.
The housing market has experienced many changes. After the 2008 recession, lending practices were updated to prevent excessive balloon mortgages, but none of the banks involved in the predatory lending schemes that led to the market crash were prosecuted or punished. Then, in 2020 many people were eager to flee cities that imposed excessive lockdown measures, creating a boom in housing sales, but now that inflation has rapidly skyrocketed and pay rates are not increasing as quickly, many fear that the market will experience another crash. In addition, renters are especially affected by rising costs as building owners have to raise rates in order to properly care for damages and general upkeep. As the teacher shortage continues to drain the public school system, districts looking to provide affordable housing for teachers are hoping to remedy the situation.
In Daly City, California near the San Francisco Bay Area, one district is offering heavily discounted housing rates for teachers. Instead of paying thousands for a one-bedroom apartment in the expensive, high-cost-of-living area, teachers are boasting of lowered rent rates set at $1,500 per month. While this costs more than a mortgage for a two or even three-bedroom house in some areas of the midwest, teachers looking to remain on the coasts find it quite reasonable.
In West Virginia, the American Federation of Teachers is fighting to urbanize the rural town of Welch in order to provide housing for teachers and even install a new shopping district. While some educators may see this as a positive offering, how these sorts of projects are funded is unknown. Some are wondering if taxpayer dollars are being allocated for subsidizing rent and expanding rural areas, many of which house families that moved away from cities and crowded suburbs to enjoy the quiet of a smaller setting.
Just as “gentrification” drives the local cost of living up in many areas — to the point that long-term residents are driven out — so too does the urbanization of the countryside. Small towns offer affordable homes because not everyone wishes to live without access to larger social settings. When expanding these areas with housing for teachers and other larger entities, farmers are more heavily taxed, and many long-term residents are no longer able to pay for their homes. So although these new efforts are being presented as a solution to the teacher crisis by some, it does have lasting repercussions.
Gentrification was listed as a concern by one Boston area teacher in Massachusetts, who noted that she would not be able to afford her house in the current market. Thankfully she has been a resident for two decades now, but this area is also considering subsidizing housing for teachers, which would likely cost taxpayers and drive the cost of living even higher. Furthermore, while the concept is still experimental, it is also unknown whether tenants are held to any specific rules to keep their subsidized rent rate or how long it will last.
Districts providing teachers with discounted housing have not released how much this measure is costing them. Nor have detailed long-term plans been published. For now, those considering accepting a teaching position based on subsidized housing may be happy to pay less for now, but the long-term costs are sure to affect everyone involved in the coming years.