Recruitment & Retention

Teachers Living at School? That’s Miami’s Solution to Sky-High Housing Costs

By Brenda Iasevoli — April 09, 2018 2 min read
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Miami is the latest city looking to solve the double problem of low teacher pay and sky-high housing costs.

The plan is to build a middle school in the upscale Brickell neighborhood with apartments on the first floor and classrooms on the upper stories, according to the Miami Herald. If the project proves successful, the next step is to construct a 300-apartment complex next to Phillis Wheatley Elementary (pictured above), located a couple miles north of downtown Miami.

The salary for new teachers in Miami starts at $40,800. The median one-bedroom rent is $1,617 per month, adding up to 48 percent of a new teacher’s pay in a year. (Use this interactive chart developed by the National Council on Teacher Quality to find out where teachers can and can’t afford to live.) Usually, renters are advised not to spend more than 30 percent of their salary on rent, but in the Miami metro area, about64 percent of people don’t live by that rule.

New teachers would basically be priced out of the Brickell neighborhood, where the city is planning to build the middle school with teacher apartments. There, one-bedroom rents can run upwards of $2,000 a month.

WLRN Public Radio in South Florida asked its listeners what they thought of the idea. Some expressed skepticism, arguing that the real problem is to address low teacher pay and too-high housing costs. Others said they’d be the first to sign up. Michel, from North Miami, said: “I drive over 60 miles a day in horrific traffic to get to my school location. I live with my family and cannot afford to move given the costs of housing in Miami.”

Funding for the Miami housing projects would come from the school district and from private developers using federal tax credits, reports the Miami Herald. The developers receive the incentives in exchange for keeping rents low. Usually, the rent is based on family size and income.

One potential, and paradoxical, problem with developing workforce housing this way is that some, possibly even many, teachers won’t meet the low salary requirements for the units. Los Angeles Unified School district ran into this problem recently when its teachers didn’t qualify for the affordable housing built for them. The units are now occupied by teachers’ aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and other school staff whose income qualifies them for the low-rent apartments.

Even if teachers qualified for the apartments and would scoop them up in heartbeart, does that make housing incentives are sound K-12 policy? That’s a question Liana Loewus explores in this Education Week article. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Photo: Phillis Wheatley Elementary (Wikimedia Commons)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.