Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Housing Programs and Incentives

The picture book Miss Malarkey Doesn't Live in Room 10 is about a child who believes that his teacher does indeed live in Room 10 -- until she (and a moving van) show up down the street.

If only things were picture book simple! This particular one may leave some wishing that it was that easy for a young schoolteacher to find a place to live. Today's teachers often can't afford to live in the neighborhoods -- or cities -- where their students live.

These days, not only teachers but schools and policy makers are thinking a lot about housing. Some teaching fields are experiencing shortages. Attracting a pool of qualified teachers can mean making a thorough study of the issue. Districts are sometimes even going into the housing business on a small scale themselves.

Fortunately, this, too, looks very different than in the imagined world of Miss Malarkey (a woman who was at school early and at school late and sometimes retreated to a mysterious room called the teacher's lounge). In the real world, the idea is not to use the school cafeterias, water fountains, and other amenities to full use but to incorporate the best aspects of a school-centered community.

Housing Markets in Pricey Communities

Housing is of course an issue for some teachers, not all. Teachers are typically paid on a salary scale that reflects years of experience as well as level of education (e.g. graduate coursework). New teachers are much more likely to fall into the rent burdened category. Some teachers have been making it in cities like Seattle because they live in two-income houses and/ or their families bought houses in the area years earlier in a different market.

Beginning teachers are of course more likely to be making payments on student loans. Rent burdened households can also include those with children, particularly those where the teacher is the sole or main breadwinner.

Geography is a big consideration. Those in Cincinnati and St. Louis are probably making it. It doesn't help to live in San Francisco even if it is that lovely city by the bay. For those who are a long way from being kids and are used to -- or longing for -- a one-bedroom apartment, Curbed has postulated this would take a teacher in the early career years nearly 70% of his or her income ( Even a studio can seem pricey. The San Francisco Chronicle recounts what the state director of the Learning Policy Institute – a local parent and former teacher – revealed about her children’s teachers. Her daughter's teacher lived in a walk-in closet while her son’s teacher was sharing a studio apartment (

According to CalMatters (2017), a California resident was unlikely to be rent burdened on an average teacher salary but could well be if his or her salary was in the lower salary ranges ( According to then available data, an average teacher in Irvine would pay between 25% and 30% of his or her salary on rent. A teacher at the lowest local salary level, though, would typically pay an amount approaching 50% -- getting close to the very rent burdened level.

While people often think of rural communities as having low cost of living, some rural communities are very pricey. This is the case in scenic areas that have more than their share of resorts -- something Colorado lawmakers well know! Chalkbeat describes the challenges faced by some Colorado communities and what they're doing about them ( Aspen is among the communities that has subsidized some units, bringing them well below market rate.

The California Teacher Housing Act of 2016 allowed the state’s districts to operate their own buildings that used public housing moneys; a limited portion of teachers (fortunately) will actually fall into categories where they qualify.

The Teacher-Focused Apartment Complex

Communities built for teachers provide housing for a limited number of educators, and the startup costs are high. Still, some are trying to meet multiple community objectives, with teacher housing one part of the mix. In some communities, the private sector is a driving force.

Teacher-centered housing communities have sprung up in multiple cities. They are built on the premise that quality of life and quality of housing can be a draw even when a novice teacher can afford something. The Teachers’ Village in Newark, New Jersey is credited with being the innovator. The Newark community was designed to meet multiple goals, including urban revitalization and bringing businesses into a beleaguered area. It’s mixed use with plenty of stores and a few charter schools. (The developers were not successful in early efforts to include a district school in the complex; the charter movement was expanding, and these were the schools that needed buildings.) The community is not all teachers though a high percentage are.

The new Teachers Corner complex in Hartford, made up of studios and small apartments, boasts proximity to CTfastrak rapid transit and multiple other downtown transit options. The organization states that a majority of the units will be market value but affordable on a teacher’s salary; a portion of the units will be reserved for people below 50% of the area’s median income ( .

Housing communities made up of mostly teachers are attractive to some. Educators get to socialize and share ideas. The Teachers’ Village website proclaims that teachers can collaborate while participating in activities like yoga or cooking intros.

Other Options

Mortgage assistance programs for teachers – the legitimate ones – make it a little easier for some techers, particularly those who are beyond the entry level and living in places where the housing market isn’t quite so hot. The Good Neighbor Next Door program offers grants in revitalization areas ( The Teacher Next Door program may offer down payment assistance (

The teacher housing issue of course remains the subject of a good deal of debate. Some say raise teacher salaries. There are states where teachers have indeed seen recent pay increases. Washington State schools recently won a funding battle, and some districts immediately responded by increasing teacher salaries; others then felt some pressure to offer raises.

While some are advocating for more money for teachers, other are advocating for more affordable housing for all.