A California district’s idea to turn school buildings into teacher housing — an attempt to address the region’s housing shortage and retain instructors — has created a massive backlash from neighborhood residents.
The East Bay Times reports The San Jose Unified School District has identified nine district-owned properties where it could build several hundred new units of affordable housing for teachers and other school employees.
The district’s proposal calls for schools to be uprooted and relocated to make way for housing, a prospect that has angered some community members.
“It is ridiculous,” says former Leland football coach Mike Carrozzo. “You’re going to build low-income housing in one of the more prosperous areas in the Bay Area, which also happens to be the furthest corner of the district for district teachers.”
San Jose Unified says it is struggling to find and retain workers as rising housing costs outpace income. Teachers are commuting up to four hours a day to and from the city’s schools, potential hires are refusing jobs, and talented staff are quitting in droves. The district has to replace one out of every seven teachers each year.
Officials have looked at eight schools and the district’s offices as potential housing sites, choosing schools that have declining enrollment, are housed in aging buildings, or would be viable residential sites for other reasons. None of the schools would be closed. But they would be moved and their original buildings might be bulldozed, which some neighbors say would disrupt their communities.
The district hasn’t yet secured funds for the proposed project.
As the need for affordable housing grows, teacher housing programs are popping up throughout the Bay Area. Last month, an experimental teacher housing complex in Palo Alto inched closer to fruition when it secured additional funding. The Santa Clara Unified School District already provides affordable teacher housing through its Casa del Maestro complex. And San Francisco-based startup Landed helps local teachers afford down payments on homes near their schools.
In San Jose, Leland High and Bret Harte Middle, built in the 1970s, made the school district’s list of potential housing sites because they are due for major upgrades.
Taylor Swenson is among those teachers struggling to remain in the Bay Area. Swenson and her husband, both of whom grew up in San Jose, want to buy a house in their hometown but can’t afford to.
“We definitely want to continue to live in San Jose, plant our roots there, potentially raise a family in San Jose,” says Swenson, a 30-year-old former elementary school teacher who now works as a teacher coach for San Jose Unified. “And as renters, it’s incredibly challenging.”