Schools turn to new amenity for attracting teachers
The average price for homes in Austin is $324,000 and the cost continues to escalate. The average salary for a teacher in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) is about $46,000. That’s a disparity so great that most teachers cannot afford to purchase homes in areas where they teach. School officials want to remedy that if possible.
There is talk about the possibility of AISD providing some measure of teacher affordable housing by building homes on school-owned property. There is also discussion about whether such an initiative could be a public-private partnership.
Austin wouldn’t be the first school district to provide teacher affordable housing. Small towns throughout Texas in the past often recruited teachers by offering them a home. The houses were usually provided by the city or a local resident. And, even today, some rural towns in the Panhandle provide housing as a way to entice good teachers to the state’s more remote areas.
Austin’s problem is that too many people want to live downtown. City dwelling has simply become too popular and costs have skyrocketed. In fact, most teachers, police officers and firefighters have been forced to move out of the city.
Austin would definitely not be leading this trend. The San Francisco Unified School District just last week announced plans to build a 100-unit housing complex exclusively for teachers and staff members who can’t afford to live in the nation’s hottest housing market.
Austin loses about 800 teachers from the district annually. Many of them choose to leave the profession, but AISD has for years been concerned about the number of teachers who leave Austin for neighboring school districts that offer better pay and lower housing costs. As a comparison, the nearby Leander and Round Rock school districts had turnover rates of 11 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in 2013-2014 versus Austin’s 15 percent.
Salaries for teachers are, unfortunately, not projected to escalate in the near future, so it is time to think creatively. The concept of affordable housing for teachers has interested numerous groups. Everything is still in the conceptual phase and no decisions have been made, but most believe change may occur soon.
This type of innovative thinking, especially when linked to collaborative efforts, is extremely positive. It’s hard to argue against helping teachers, firefighters and police officers find affordable housing.