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School Districts Finding Creative Ways To House Teachers

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With teacher strikes and worker's rights campaigns getting national attention, the teaching profession is symbolic of a deepening housing crisis in the United States. A few school districts across the country have begun taking steps to address the issue of workforce housing for their teachers directly.

School Districts Finding Creative Ways To House Teachers

The Santa Clara Unified School District in California's Bay Area is among several in California that have built apartment buildings specifically to rent to their teachers at below-market prices, the New York Times reports

Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Tennessee capital's school district, is attempting a less direct route: It is offering to trade an 11-acre plot of land it owns to any developer willing to build an affordable housing development for its teachers in exchange, The Tennessean reports. A depot for the district's school buses currently occupies the plot of land.

The affordable housing situation in many metro areas has been growing more critical by the year, and what little progress that has been made has often been for the most destitute demographics. Teachers are among the many middle-class professions wherein workers make too much money to qualify for federally subsidized housing, but not enough to comfortably live in market-rate housing near where they work.

MNPS' plan, backed by Nashville Mayor David Briley, requires a developer to partner in the project, which advocates hope would result in an apartment building on the bus depot site and a new bus depot on a less valuable plot of land elsewhere, according to the Tennessean. The gambit has not yet been formalized into an official request for proposals, so city and school district officials are unsure how the land swap would actually work.

study released last year by the University of California, Berkeley, drew a direct link between housing affordability challenges and the high rate at which teachers leave their jobs, creating a teacher shortage across California. The struggle for teachers goes "above and beyond what comparable workers are experiencing," the report said. 

Teacher wages have remained relatively stagnant over the past 30 years, according to the report, and have lagged significantly behind housing costs, which have grown dramatically over that same time period. Although school districts struggle to raise the funds to increase teachers' salaries, real estate is one of the most potentially lucrative assets at a district's disposal.

Whether by providing housing directly to employees or leveraging the real estate to subsidize housing costs, school districts need to explore real estate's potential to ease the burden on teachers, the report concludes.

Some private sector alternatives have popped up to address the issue, particularly in Silicon Valley. An app launched there called Landed helps teachers find units to purchase as long as they can pay at least half of the required down payment, the New York Times reports. But without a more comprehensive solution, the issue of teacher attrition will only continue as a symptom of the housing affordability crisis.