Teaching Profession

Affording a House Can Be a Challenge for Teachers in Some Cities, Study Finds

By Kate Stoltzfus — April 14, 2017 2 min read
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Looking to buy a house? If you’re a teacher, affordability options are slim in some cities, according to a new study.

Trulia, the residential real estate website, compared average elementary, middle, and high school teacher incomes from 2016 with average home-buying prices in more than 90 U.S. cities. And some places are more affordable than others. (The report defined affordability as a property whose monthly payment takes up only 31 percent of a homebuyer’s monthly paycheck.)

Across the country, housing prices in many U.S. cities are rising, while teacher salaries have not. In fact, a 2016 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that the gap between how much teachers make vs. other workers with the same levels of education and experience has grown, with the average weekly teacher salary $30 less in 2015 than it was in 1996. Some educators even work another job to supplement their income.

So what cities fare best in terms of affordable housing for one-income households? Dayton, Ohio, came out on top (83 percent of houses currently for sale were attainable on a teacher’s $61,810 average state salary), followed by Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; El Paso, Texas; or Bakerfield, Calif. In a city like Chicago, where the median listing price is just above the national average, educators can afford just over half of all houses on the market.

In contrast, the top five least affordable metro areas for housing were all in California. Denver, Austin, Miami, and Seattle were also challenging places for teachers to purchase real estate.

San Francisco (where the average teacher makes $72,340 and the average property costs $1.2 million to buy) is the least affordable city for teachers on one income. To ease the burden, a bill passed last fall will let California school districts use local and state funds and federal tax credits on affordable housing for school employees. But so far, the San Francisco Unified school district’s plan to provide housing for 500 teachers and paraprofessionals by 2020 has helped 16 educators over two years, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

This isn’t the first time crunching real-estate numbers hasn’t added up favorably for teachers. Last fall, my colleague Madeline Will reported on a separate study that found high school teachers making a median salary of $56,882 could only afford to buy a median-priced house in just 62 percent of 210 metro areas. Some school districts, including in Washington, offer teachers subsidized housing or help with loans. Several charter schools in Newark, N.J., have had success with an apartment complex for teachers that is $200 cheaper than the city’s average apartment.

This latest report also measured affordability for educators in a two-income household. Though finding a home that fits the budget can be much easier with two teacher salaries, in cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Honolulu, less than 50 percent of houses on the market are affordable.

See the full report to find out how other cities measure up.

Source: Image by Flickr user Bill Ward licensed under Creative Commons

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.