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America's Educators Can't Afford Homes: What Now?

Written by Mikkie Mills on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 9:18 am
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Buying a home is part of the American dream, and every citizen strives to achieve that lifetime goal at some point in their lives. However, for many American teachers, the goal seems blurred due to the skyrocketing home prices and the seemingly stagnant teachers' salary in most states.

Buying a Home in the U.S.

The real estate industry in the U.S. is enormous. The total value of household in the country has grown from $1.1 trillion in 2015 to 28.5 trillion in 2016, according to Property Wire. Each state within the US has a distinct set of regulations, rules, and taxation plans making the property prices variable across the states.

Teachers' salaries across the States have risen over the last few years, especially in California, but not adequate to catch up with the soaring home prices. This is a major concern as the public schools are not able to attract and retain enough qualified teachers.

According to a report by Redfin, an established real estate brokerage firm, only 17% of houses for sale are affordable to teachers earning a national average salary of $ 73,536. The analysis focused on 31 most populated counties from Los Angeles to Sonoma Valley Wine County. That's a worrying decline from 2012 when 30% of houses for sale in those areas could be afforded by teachers who earned an average of $ 70,487 at that time.

More Gloomy Reports Based On Salary

Buying a home continues to get out of reach for teachers depending on the cities where they live. The National Housing Conference, which is a nonprofit organization advocating for affordable housing in the country, studied 210 metro areas on whether teachers could afford to buy or rent a house.

High school teachers with a median salary of $56,882 were able to rent a 2-bedroom house in 94% of the areas. Teachers could not afford to pay housing rent in 12 metro areas including Honolulu, Hawaii. This has occasioned the teachers' recruitment and retention crisis in the State.

The report further indicated that high school teachers at the same median salary could afford to buy median-priced homes in 62% of the areas analyzed. The income required to purchase a house in San Luis Obispo, for example, was double the teacher's salary in that area.

A typical home in California is sold for over $500,000, according to Redfin. That is $200,000 more than what an average teacher can afford. According to Nela Richardson, Redfin's chief economist, California is a good example of teaching staffs' woes in owning homes, but the problem spreads across many states of the nation. The gap between income and home prices continues to open denying the public workers the privilege of living in the areas the serve.

Housing Incentives to Attract and Retain Teachers

Some districts have put in place measures and incentives to attract and retain qualified teachers. The incentives include subsidizing housing costs for teachers, housing loans, home renter's insurance, and internal housing programs. In California, a bill has been passed to allow district schools to lease properties for the development of housing units for teachers and other public workers in the district. The bill that was championed by the San Francisco school district has been submitted to the governor for signing.

The Washington Post has also reported that a nonprofit organization run by the Charter School Incubator Initiative has commenced construction of subsidized housing units for teachers in Washington, D.C.

The Education Week recently published news on the Newark, N.J. apartment complex, which is a modern day teachers' village open to all public school teachers. The complex offers reduced rents and also collaborates with three charter schools. The move to involve charter schools has, however, raised questions from the teachers' unions, although many teachers living there have expressed their excitement on the affordability of the units and the convenient location. More developments are expected to crop up in several states to address the teachers' plight in accessing affordable homes.

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