Expensive housing sparks teacher exodus

With the average house in San Jose valued at $1,098,400 and the average one-bedroom apartment renting for around $2,364 a month, San Jose is facing an affordable housing crisis. Affecting individuals of all occupations, from blue to white-collar workers, this housing crisis has hit the staff of San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) especially hard.

According to Trulia, the average salary for a high school teacher working in San Jose is calculated to be $72,865, making only two percent of the homes in San Jose affordable for teachers. SJUSD has felt the pinch of the housing shortage, as many teachers have relocated to work elsewhere in recent years, citing high housing prices as a major reason for their decision. Information from the district shows that over 200 teachers leave the district every year.  

With housing prices continuing to rise, many teachers have resorted to live in cities outside of Almaden Valley—including Morgan Hill, Santa Cruz or Cupertino—translating to lengthy daily commute times.  

Consequently, this revolving door of staff can impact the students’ quality of education. As teachers are driven out every year, students may be prevented from establishing long-term relationships with teachers and may be negatively impacted by the influx of new, less experienced staff..

“A teacher I met last year helped me a lot throughout the school year and told me to reach out for a letter of recommendation once I was a senior. However, he decided to take on a job offer at a different school district that was closer to where he lived. I email him from time to time, but it is unfair that he had to give up working here solely because he could not afford a house in the area,” Junior Sonya Robinson said.

The school district has proposed moving certain schools, notably Bret Harte and the school, in order to build affordable housing for staff. A $450 million bond measure known as Measure A has been proposed to fund this move. In the November midterm elections, Santa Clara county voters rejected the measure, as community backlash over the proposed building project grew.

In an effort to help, startups such as Landed are reaching out to local teachers, and providing support in paying down payments so they can afford buying homes. The startup approaches by splitting down payments: the teacher will supply a payment worth ten percent of the cost of living, and Landed puts in an additional ten percent. Investors provide this money, receiving their ten percent back once the house is sold, as well as 25 percent of any appreciation or depreciation in value. To help San Jose, Landed is partnering with the East Side Alliance to serve 85,000 students, which is their largest teacher community so far.

The company currently helps around 10,000 educators in eight different school districts. The startup wants to extend its reach to the East Bay and assist teachers in western Contra Costa County who also often struggle to afford 20 percent down payments on the area’s highly priced homes.