Recruitment & Retention

To Attract Teachers, More Cities Eye Discounts on Housing

By Liana Loewus — July 27, 2017 2 min read
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It’s a common problem around the country, especially in growing cities: Housing prices are up and teachers’ salaries aren’t.

That leaves teachers with few options for affordable buying and renting. Many end up having to live far from the communities they work in.

For some time now, cities have been experimenting with ways to ease the cost burden on their educators. Baltimore began offering teachers $5,000 home-buying grants nearly two decades ago. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans educators could live in modular “pod” homes for free. More recently, Newark, N.J., built a Teachers Village complex with reduced rent and three charter schools on site.

Now, Detroit and Nashville are working on giving teachers affordable housing options as well—but in different ways and for different reasons.

This week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced teachers would get a 50 percent discount on homes they purchase through the city’s land bank auction program, reports the Detroit Free Press.

City employees and retirees have been offered the discount for several years, and it’s now being expanded to all teachers in public, charter, and private schools.

It’s well known that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy and seen its population plummet in recent years. The city has also suffered from a teacher shortage, leading to large classes and a reliance on long-term substitutes. “If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city,” according to Chalkbeat.

Music City Making Moves on Affordable Housing

Nashville, on the other hand, has seen an economic and population boom. However, affordable housing has become a significant problem. The city released a report in May predicting that by 2025 there would 31,000 fewer affordable housing units than needed.

The city recently launched a website to help teachers find homes to rent and purchase within their budget. And teachers can connect with people who are willing to rent or sell houses to them at a discount through a related Facebook page.

Mayor Megan Barry is working with real estate developers on possibly building a “teachers village” as well, though those efforts are still in the beginning stages, according to Adriane Bond Harris, the director for the city’s office of housing.

“We’re focusing on housing because the mayor had a priority on housing when she came in in 2015, and we knew it was a struggle with recruitment and retention” of teachers, said Bond. The developer-led teacher housing initiative would ideally be ready in the next couple of years, she said.

Nearby Memphis has a teacher residency program that provides teachers in training with free housing in the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, which is now a mixed-use high-rise.

Image: Getty

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