With high rental costs exacerbating the teacher shortage in San Francisco, various city agencies and tenant rights organizations have banded together to ensure educators have the tools necessary to fight unlawful evictions and find housing.
The United Educators of San Francisco, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and San Francisco Unified School District are among the collaborators working to unlock legal counseling and provide housing assistance for educators.
The new and continuing services, which were announced Tuesday morning at a news conference at Tenderloin Community School, include a legal advice hotline with an attorney from the Justice and Diversity Center, a local nonprofit.
UESF has also begun hosting monthly housing assistance clinics for educators with the Eviction Defense Collaborative and HomeownershipSF, offering free rental counseling, down-payment assistance and legal guidance for responding to landlords threatening eviction.
The news follows an Aug. 31 decision in San Francisco Superior Court that blocked The City from enforcing an ordinance prohibiting the eviction of teachers during the school year.
“We have a problem on our hands,” said SFUSD Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh. “California is way behind in terms of funding.”
“We also have a national teacher shortage, so we have very few candidates that are going into the teaching profession,” Leigh said. “And then here in San Francisco, we have the most astronomical housing crisis of any district in the Bay Area and probably the entire country.”
The “perfect storm” Leigh described has anecdotally resulted in the departure of many teachers and paraprofessionals from San Francisco, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment has reportedly exceeded $3,400 a month.
As of Tuesday, more than two months into the school year, there were 85 vacancies in the SFUSD for regular classroom teachers, literacy coaches, counselors and other positions, according to an SFUSD Human Resources report.
UESF Vice President Susan Solomon said that 39 percent of the educators working in the SFUSD are in their first five years of teaching.
“It would seem that they are the most vulnerable in terms of housing,” Solomon said, noting that veteran educators are also vulnerable.
The programs are being funded with $200,000 from the SFUSD for eviction defense and $100,000 from the Mayor’s Office through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, according to Bryan Chew, director of community development for the Mayor’s Office.
San Francisco is considering building affordable housing exclusively for educators. However, Chew said this is the first time the department has offered “specific services” for teachers through a partnership with the SFUSD.
In July, the office increased the amount it offers in down payment loans to certain homebuyers in San Francisco from $100,000 to $375,000.
“Our loan program was not really being able to serve that many teachers because the amount of money that we were able to give did not match the rising cost of housing,” Chew said, noting that three teachers have advantage of the loans in the last year.
Teachers can also receive another $20,000 loan to buy a home from the office’s Teacher Next Door program.
Jill Wynns, a longtime Board of Education member, said the school board is committed to helping teachers weather the affordability crisis.
“What we need is for there to be structures to help them,” said Wynns, who is running for re-election.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.education