As local public servants, many teachers want to live close to their schools.
But, increasingly, across California, that’s a fading dream. An EdSource analysis of teacher salaries and rents reveals just how crushing the state’s housing crisis has become.
Rising housing costs have hit teachers hard, especially those at the bottom of the salary scale working in coastal or metro areas. Federal standards say affordable housing should cost 30 percent or less of a household’s income. Yet, in nearly 40 percent of the 680 school districts that provided salary data to the state, first year teachers did not earn enough to rent an affordable one-bedroom apartment. Their pay was so low in 39 of those districts that they would have to spend half of their income to rent such an apartment.
Even teachers making a higher average salary struggle to pay the rent. In 20 percent of the districts, teachers earning an average salary did not earn enough to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. And in about a quarter of the districts, even the highest paid teachers don’t earn enough to afford a three-bedroom apartment.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development calculates fair market rent for modest one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments over regional areas considered a reasonable commute.
In California, the sharpest divide between teacher salaries and rent occurs in the coastal cities. The biggest gap between pay and rent is in the Bay Area, where teachers earning an average salary in 90 percent of districts did not earn enough to afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment.
It’s no wonder that especially in the Bay area, teachers routinely live with roommates. EdSource’s analysis shows that in only four of the 118 Bay Area districts, first-year teachers can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment. Perhaps more telling is that in almost a third of the Bay Area districts a first-year teacher would have to spend more than half of his or her salary to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
Teachers fare better in rural areas, where in nearly 90 percent of the districts, teachers earning an average salary could afford a two-bedroom apartment. But many of those areas have a shortage of rental housing and the less-expensive rentals have not alleviated the teacher shortages in many of those districts. Even the lowest-paid teachers can afford a two-bedroom apartment in nearly 70 percent of rural districts across the state.
Because the rents are calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as “fair market rents,” the figures are likely lower than actual rents in high-cost communities. In other words, the numbers of teachers who don’t make enough to pay for a modest apartment on their salaries alone are conservative. There are many others who, faced with soaring housing prices, elect to move in with family or take on roommates so they can continue working as a teacher.