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School Districts Move into the Housing Business

Schools building affordable housing to help retain teachers, staff.   July 20, 2022


By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor


School districts across the country are getting into the housing business for their own staff. 

An Associated Press story recently profiled a number of school districts that are trying to provide affordable housing for their teachers and staff in areas of the country where housing crunches exist. 

The AP profiled Jefferson Union School District in Daly City in San Mateo County in California, just south of San Francisco. The 4,000-student school district opened 122 apartments for its teachers and staff. One teacher who rents from her district is Lisa Raskin, who is paying $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment that’s described in the article as “deeply discounted.” 

“This is absolutely a solution for other school districts,” Andrew Lie, a district school board trustee. “As we’ve gone through the process, we’ve learned of so many other districts interested in what we’ve done. For us to be at the front end of this new wave of teacher and staff housing is actually pretty exciting.” 

The housing can also be used as a recruiting tool. In a rural West Virginia town, a teaching federation opened a building with apartments and shops to help revitalize a community and also prevent teachers from having to commute for hours to get to the schools because of a lack of housing available. 

Jefferson Union’s program took root in 2017-18, when officials approved a $75 million complex financed in part by a $30 billion bond measure. Plans are in the works to expand the program, but are being met with some resistance in the community. 

One expert on the topic says that while more school districts will consider this concept, he cautions them to proceed slowly. 

“One of the biggest barriers is the need for people to think outside the box,” says Jeff Vincent, co-founder and director of the Center for Cities and Schools at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Dave Lubach is managing editor facilities market. 

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