The City needs to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to teacher housing

The proposed pilot program for teacher housing would formalize The City’s commitment to affordable housing for educators. (EMMA CHIANG/SPECIAL TO S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)

By Susan Solomon

Across California, school districts are leveraging their underutilized land to build housing for their educators to keep them in the communities that they serve.

With a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco listed at a median rent of $3,700, and homes selling for a median price of $1.35 million, there is no question that San Francisco is increasingly unaffordable to SFUSD teachers whose starting salary is approximately $60,000.

So educators are taking action. After years of discussion, the United Educators of San Francisco, San Francisco’s teachers’ union, partnered with the late Mayor Ed Lee to start the City’s first educator housing project: a 134-unit project on land owned by the school district at the Francis Scott Key Annex in the Sunset District.

Educators were deeply involved in the planning. We fought to ensure that 100 percent of the units would be affordable to our educators across a wide range of incomes—from 40 percent of the area median income up to 120 percent of the area median income. In dollar figures, that’s an annual income range of $34,500 for a single educator, up to $147,800 for an educator with a family of four.

When Francis Scott Key is complete, it will serve as a model for how cities and school districts can work together to address housing affordability in order to attract and retain qualified teachers and maintain a workforce to adequately prepare our youth for the future.

Even with the project well underway, the question remains: how do we build off of this model and provide permanently affordable housing to educators at all income levels, including those who might not qualify for traditional affordable housing?

The answer may come before voters this November. UESF has partnered with Supervisors Sandra Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Matt Haney, and Shamann Walton — three of whom are former presidents of the San Francisco Board of Education — to carefully craft a pilot program for Educator Housing in the Affordable Homes for Educators and Families NOW Act.

This proposal is a big deal: not only does it formalize the City’s commitment to creating truly affordable educator housing; it also boasts a comprehensive housing rezoning and streamlining package that opens up large parcels of public and private land in every neighborhood — from the Bayview to the Richmond — for educator housing and 100 percent affordable housing.

And, what sweetens the deal is that the supervisors have secured $20 million in dedicated funding in the 2019 housing bond to kickstart this educator housing pilot program.

This innovative program was designed by educators, for educators. Every single unit will house at least one employee of the San Francisco Unified School District or City College of San Francisco. It will serve the needs of educators with a wide range of incomes: whether they be new paraeducators, or tenured teachers in family households.

The units won’t be just tiny studios, but rather a mix of studios, one bedroom, two bedroom, and three bedroom units to serve households of all sizes.

The Affordable Homes for Educators and Families NOW Act puts forward a solid plan to leverage publicly owned land to maximize it for the public good—a mandate passed by the voters through Proposition K in 2015. What’s also great about the proposal is that the supervisors intentionally crafted it to be flexible so that it can be adapted over time to meet the changing needs of our educators and families.

By leveraging the value of our public land and combining that with a variety of funding sources, we can provide permanent housing for our educators and keep them in the City they serve and love. We can do this without giving away our publicly owned land to private developers; the City and the school district just have to be willing to put their money where their mouths are.

Susan Solomon is president of the United Educators of San Francisco.

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