Earlier this month, Richard Daley, the mayor of Chicago, announced a program to offer the city’s public school teachers up to $7,500 to use for down payments on home mortgages, ac-cording to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
To qualify for the full amount, teachers would have to buy their homes in one of Chicago’s new mixed-income housing developments. However, teachers who buy homes elsewhere in the city would be eligible for subsidies of $3,000.
At a time when housing prices in many areas are rapidly rising, Daley sees the program as a way to help the city “recruit and retain some of the best young teachers in the country,” the Tribune reported.
If implemented, the new Chicago program would join a host of other, sometimes little-known housing incentives available to teachers at points across the country. According to data col-lected by EDUCATION WEEK’s Research Center, at least four states--California, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Mississippi--currently operate programs specifically designed to provide housing assistance to teachers. In addition, a number of cities and districts--including Baltimore, the District of Columbia, San Jose, and San Francisco--have housing-incentive plans of their own.
Such programs vary in their financial details and eligibility requirements. Connecticut’s program, for example, provides low-interest mortgages and down payment assistance to teachers who work in high-needs areas or in high-demand subject areas, such as mathematics, science, and special education.
San Jose’s Teacher Home Buyer Program, by contrast, provides deferred-payment loans of up to $40,000 to help its full-time teachers land mortgages. Baltimore offers its teachers a $3,000 home-buying loan that is reduced by 20% for each year of occupancy.
In addition to such local initiatives, the national Teacher Next Door Program, operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, enables public school teachers to buy federally acquired homes at half their listed prices. According to HUD’s Web site, more than 4,000 teachers have bought homes through the Teacher Next Door Program since 1999.
Yet many teacher advocates have mixed feelings about housing-incentive programs, seeing them as a poor substitute for higher salaries. “I’ve yet to see housing-assistance programs for accountants, computer programmers and other highly skilled professions,” Melinda Anderson, a senior press officer with the National Education Association, wrote in an e-mail.
At the same time, Anderson acknowledged that, in the current market, housing programs can present a welcome opportunity for teachers. “Housing assistance programs not only offer educators a chance to achieve [the] dream [of owning a home], but help build important ties between teachers and the communities in which they live and work,” she said.
Anderson added that the NEA has seen a growing number of districts trying to address the issue of affordable housing as they prepare for an expected record number of teacher retirements.
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