Educators Struggle to Stay in the Bay Area

New Report Details Lack of Affordable Housing for Bay Area Educators, and Identifies Compelling Solutions
Site of future affordable housing for educators
Photo Credit
Joseph Smooke (all photos)

The Council of Community Housing Organizations in San Francisco and Bay Area Forward released a report this morning describing the urgent need for housing affordable to educators working in the Bay Area, and in the report they have offered a suite of solutions.

The report entitled, “Who Will Teach Our Children? Housing the Bay Area’s Educators” found that many educators and paraprofessionals fall into a middle-ground, where they either make too much to qualify for the most prevalent type of subsidized housing which is funded by federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and available only to households that have low incomes, or they earn too little to be able to afford market-rate housing.

This puts the entire Bay Area at risk of not being able to attract or retain qualified educators, because housing costs prohibit them from being able to live in the same area in which they teach.

“Working on the front lines of the affordability crisis for decades, we see an ever-increasing number of people left behind by the market,” said Fernando Marti, Co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, in the report. “Even teachers with middle-income salaries are struggling, forced into long commutes or leaving the profession entirely."

Educators include a wide range of professions and household situations such as childcare workers, teaching assistants, librarians, and tenured teachers; single teacher households, parents of large families and more. The report provides graphics showing what different types of educators earn and clearly indicates the gap between salaries and housing costs for each.

The risk that this presents to San Francisco is profound. Children are only 13% of San Francisco’s population, far lower than other major cities. Education is crucial for people to be competitive for decent paying jobs especially in our technology oriented economy. If we are not able to retain educators, we will continue to see a migration of families out of the Bay Area to places where their children can get a good education.

A 2019 EdSource special report said that as it stands, the affordability gap between teacher pay and housing costs is largest in the Bay Area.

Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calculates the Area Median Income (AMI) for metropolitan areas across the country to assess eligibility for many federal, state, and local housing assistance programs.

The median incomes in the Bay Area seem very high, yet people living in the Bay Area and earning full 100% of the AMI still struggle to obtain and maintain their housing.

For instance, the median market-rate home purchase price in the Bay Area is $960,000 despite $550,800 being an affordable purchase price for a household earning 100% of the Area Median Income. A 2-person household earning 100% of the AMI would be making $109,450 according to HUD. The cost of housing isn’t just out of reach in notoriously expensive San Francisco. The report shows that even renting a one-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County averages about $3,000 a month.

As a result, a majority, 64% of San Francisco Unified School District teachers fall into the category of being rent or cost burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income toward housing costs.

“I've been working across the Peninsula with teachers and families, and they are struggling to stay afloat because of the affordability crisis,” said Sarah Chaffin, founder of SupportTeacherHousing.org, an advocacy group in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, in the report. “We need to do better to keep educators and working families in their communities. We need real solutions, including expanding teacher housing models.”

Forward movement with teacher housing and affordability can be quite complex, however.

According to the report, “the supply of housing being built that is priced for middle and low-income workers is not sufficient to meet the need.”

Roadblocks to producing sufficient affordable housing include high Bay Area construction costs (due to land, labor, and material costs as well as workforce shortages and the high cost of investment capital), inability to use public land, and the lack of privately owned sites available and affordable for building affordable housing.

Nonetheless, access to secure and affordable housing is essential to keeping Bay Area educators around.

“San Francisco educators have been pressing for better policies around housing issues for the last several years,” said Anabel Ibanez, political director of the United Educators of San Francisco, in the report. “Our communities need policies that keep our teachers in place, and protect families from being displaced from our neighborhoods.”

Site of future educator housing
Site of future affordable housing for educators in San Francisco

The report is optimistic that these efforts are starting to pay off with the example of more than 100 units of affordable educator housing being in the works for a large San Francisco Unified School District site in the Sunset neighborhood. The report discusses other efforts that would make a big difference throughout the Bay Area such as programs for helping educators purchase homes, and building more affordable rental housing like what’s moving forward in San Francisco.

Communities and policy-makers are becoming more involved in the housing development process. This was shown in November 2018 when California voters passed Proposition 1, which is an affordable housing bond that includes $450 million in new funding to local jurisdictions.

The bond increases down-payment assistance for first time homebuyers, and the program happens to be one that many educator families in the Bay Area qualify for.

Despite the notion that there might be a single housing development or grant program available to solve the problem of our region’s educators facing displacement, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It needs to become a policy priority throughout the region if we are to be successful in retaining educators.

In order to make the progress that the Bay Area’s communities wish to see, the report says that people must actively continue pursuing affordable housing in all of its different forms to set the stage for long-term solutions.