Eric Westervelt of NPR took it upon himself to investigate the issue of teachers being unable to afford to rent or purchase housing in or near the wealthier communities they teach in, shedding light on a mismatch that has a very real effect on quality of education and opportunity.
Westervelt reported on the situation occurring across the country, as teachers are increasingly unable to afford to rent or own a home in affluent communities close to where they work.
“This is where all the tech jobs are. And it’s pushing out your community helpers. The cost of living just keeps going up and up,” Hunt says, adding, “Who do we blame? Do we blame the homeowners who are renting out their property? Do we blame the city?”
He went on to say that many cities are working to find a solution to this issue through ideas such as affordable housing quotas for new developments, or building subsidized condos or apartments created especially for teachers.
The City Council in Palo Alto, California is looking into a number of these ideas, including subsidized housing for teachers as well as other public servants who cannot afford local rent prices but make too much money to qualify for low-income housing.
San Francisco is also looking to solve the issue by issuing forgivable housing loans, mortgage assistance, and affordable housing built specifically for teachers. The city also has plans to restart its Teacher Next Door program in May. The program offers teachers in the city up to $20,000 to be put toward the purchase of their first home.
According to the real estate website Trulia, the average cost of a two-bedroom home in San Francisco is over $1 million. As Madeleine Davies reports for Jezebel, the $20,000 would not be helpful to most teachers there.
Teachers like Tara Hunt, who has been a teacher in Palo Alto for the past 16 years, also say report the difficulties of getting the average parent at her school to understand the struggles faced by the majority of teachers.
“Steve Jobs’ kids went through this school. We have some pretty high-profile parents. It’s really hard to relate with them because they’re very wealthy people… No one’s being proactive,” Hunt says.
Hunt wakes up at 4 a.m. to make it to school on time, as the commute from the city she lives in can take up to two hours with traffic. Despite veteran teachers in her school making a salary of over $100,000 a year, she cannot find affordable housing any closer to her school. She said she once looked at a two-bedroom home for rent in Palo Alto for $7,500 a month that was just 1,200 square feet. “I don’t even know who that would work for. ”
Kelly Henderson, a teacher in a wealthy Boston suburb, adds that all the extra hours teachers are asked to commit to make the added commute time additionally hard to handle. She argues that teaching all day accompanied by coaching a sport or being a faculty adviser causes teachers to continuously make difficult choices, such as “Do I stay and watch my students in the school play, or do I go home and remember what my husband looks like once in a while?”