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School districts in California are stepping in to provide affordable housing for faculty and staff

One high school district in Daly City has broken ground on 122-apartment building.

February 26, 2020 |
Serramonte Faculty and Staff housing project, Jefferson Union High School District Daly City, California SVA Architects

The Serramonte Faculty and Staff housing project will offer apartments at rents that are 50% of comparable market rate. Image courtesy of SVA Architects

The affordable housing shortage in the U.S. is particularly acute in California, where less than one-third of the state’s households can afford a median-priced home that now tops $600,000, or more than twice the national average.

School districts in California’s priciest regions have had trouble attracting and holding onto K-12 teachers whose midrange annual salaries, statewide, are from $67,032 to $87,373 for high school districts; $65,210 to $81,840 for elementary school districts; and from $63,243 to $74,676 for Unified School Districts, according to the California Department of Education.

An analysis last year by EdSource found that in 47 Bay Area school districts, even the highest-paid teachers could only afford a one-bedroom apartment.

To address this need, several of the state’s counties and school districts—including those in Santa Clara, San Francisco, Sonoma County, West Contra Costa, and Mountain View—have either approved the construction of affordable housing for teachers and staff, or are considered it.

One of these districts is Jefferson Union High School in Daly City, where in June 2018 voters approved Measure J, a $33 million general obligation bond to help pay for the construction of affordable apartments for teachers and staff, a first for this state.

This $61 million Serramonte Faculty and Staff Housing project for Jefferson Union High School District broke ground on February 5, and its first units are scheduled to available in the spring of 2022. The facility will consist of 122 apartments, with 59 one-bedroom, 55 two-bedroom, and eight three-bedroom units. The homes will range from 640 to 1,270 sf. Most important, the units’ rent rates will be 50% of market rates at the time occupancy.

J.H. Fitzmaurice, a general contractor based in Emeryville, Calif., is the GC on this project, which SVA Architects designed. The school district, comprised of five schools and a Youth Health Center, has just under 4,900 students, according to the latest data.

A September 2017 survey of the district’s employees (48.5% of whom were tenured teachers), found that 25% of 266 respondents said they were “very interested” in employee housing, 14% were “somewhat interested,” and 24% “would consider” leasing.  At the time of the survey, 41.2% of 262 respondents said they owned their homes.

Nearly one-quarter of total respondents were paying between $2,000 and $2,499 per month in rent or mortgage, 13.2% were paying $2,500 to $3,000, and 12.8% were paying more than $3,000. That translated to 29.7% of respondents who were spending 31% to 40% of their household monthly incomes for rent or mortgage, 17.7% paying between 41% and 50% of their incomes, and 13.5% paying more than 50%.

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