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Will housing offer a solution to teacher vacancies?

A shortage of teachers continue to be a problem nationwide, and rising housing costs aren’t helping – next step, affordable teacher housing?

A Black female teacher stands at the front of a classroom with teaching tools around her smiling at her class.

Why is the United States dealing with more than 36,500 teacher vacancies? A significant factor may lie in basic math. 

According to Axios, data from the past four years in 15 of the largest U.S. cities reveal the following trends:

  1. The expense of renting a one-bedroom apartment has surged by 22%.
  2. The average home price has escalated by 40%.
  3. Meanwhile, the starting salaries for teachers have only seen a modest increase of 15%.

Given these circumstances, if you’re a teacher grappling with a salary and trying to find an affordable residence, the challenge is evident.

The (Possible) Solution? 

In response to the ongoing challenge of attracting talent, school districts are taking a proactive approach by incorporating a significant incentive: constructing affordable housing units of their own.

Across states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas, school districts have taken steps to either complete, initiate, or plan the development of housing complexes designated for their teachers. Utilizing various strategies, such as federal grants and collaborations with nonprofits, many districts are also leveraging their own underutilized (and tax-exempt) land resources.

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While addressing the persistently inadequate compensation remains a considerable concern, a teacher within the Bay Area, residing in housing provided by the district, shared with Axios that this initiative has proven to be a transformative and advantageous move.

The Potential Across Other Industries

Can you apply this approach to other sectors? Yes. In fact, it’s already being done. 

For instance, a Wisconsin dairy farm has successfully reduced its turnover rate to less than 1% by accommodating nearly 50% of its 75 employees on-site. (To provide context, the industry average nationwide stood at 38.8% in 2019.)

In Colorado, the state is investing $6.5 million into employee housing to alleviate the labor scarcity for snow plowing.

Even in Florida, this concept has demonstrated versatility. A development project in the state effectively addressed the concerns of displeased “not in my backyard” neighbors by implementing enhanced security measures. In a unique twist, an adjacent 24-unit apartment building will be exclusively dedicated to housing sheriff’s office employees.

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Macie LaCau is a passionate writer, herbal educator, and dog enthusiast. She spends most of her time overthinking and watering her tiny tomatoes.

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