Daly City school district provides affordable rent in response to teacher shortages

The cost of living in the Bay Area continues to price many people out, including teachers. A school district in Daly City is among a handful of locations across the country to find innovative ways to attract and retain teachers. One way is to provide affordable housing

Though the much wealthier Santa Clara and Los Angeles school districts led the way on staff housing, this Bay Area district is hoping a national trend takes off. The theory: if you can compete on pay, help you staff with a way to stay.

Michaela Ott, a brand-new high school biology teacher moved 2,500 miles across America, to teach in Daly City, California. 

"I don’t plan on leaving. You'd literally have to drag me out," said Ott. She was recruited over an online job fair by the Jefferson Union High School District. "She mentioned this wonderful opportunity to live in their new staff housing," said Ott.

The Jefferson Union High School District acted out of pure need. "We were losing about, on average, 25% out of our staff on an annual basis. And, when we surveyed the staff several years ago, many of them were leaving due to the cost of housing," said school district board Trustee Andy Lie. The small district describes itself as a low-revenue district that can't pay what many others can in San Mateo County. 

So, the small, district built a $75 million, 122-unit, pet friendly and roommate friendly apartment complex for 25% of its teachers and staff to occupy. "It's a huge weight off my shoulders," said Ott.

The structure was funded by a voter-passed school bond and a loan secured by the way below market rate rents. That helps teachers and staff reduce or eliminate long commutes or forced second jobs. "We have a market-rate product at affordable prices for our staff," said Trustee Lie.

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A one bedroom that rents right now goes for $1,360 a month. In the real world of real estate in Daly City, it would be at least double that. 

"The average rent for a two-bedroom is about $1,890 a month and the average rent on a three-bedroom unit is $2,400 per month," said Lie. Along with teachers; counselors, office workers, paraprofessionals, and van drivers qualify. 

The maximum commute to any school in the district is 15 minutes; some a short walk up the block. "A dozen, maybe more new hires that have come into this district specifically because of the promise of housing," said Lie. "This is really setting the bar and I think other districts are going to realize they need to do more to recruit and retain teachers," said Ott.

Many school districts have come to Jefferson Union to learn how to do the same.