In SF’s surging real estate market, how do teachers stack up? 

click to enlarge Lincoln High School teacher Brendan Furey and his wife, Aly, have struggled to buy a home to raise 17-month-old daughter Noelle due to the surging real estate market in San Francisco. The couple are like others whose household income exceeds the cutoff for The City's Downpayment Assistance Loan Program, leaving them stuck in the middle. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Lincoln High School teacher Brendan Furey and his wife, Aly, have struggled to buy a home to raise 17-month-old daughter Noelle due to the surging real estate market in San Francisco. The couple are like others whose household income exceeds the cutoff for The City's Downpayment Assistance Loan Program, leaving them stuck in the middle.

For San Francisco's public school teachers, the housing crisis that has gripped The City amid what is widely considered the greatest development boom since the Gold Rush is nothing new.

In fact, finding a home on a teacher's salary — which was $69,135 last year for a teacher with 12 years of experience, the average for the San Francisco Unified School District — has proven so difficult in San Francisco that city leaders first began discussing how to provide housing for teachers more than 15 years ago during the thriving dot-com economy of the late 1990s.

But the initial commitment for such an effort from The City came in 2007, when former Mayor Gavin Newsom secured $1 million for the Teacher Next Door Program that helps teachers purchase their first home.

As of this year the program, which has since helped 52 teachers find homes in San Francisco, is out of money, and without it there are no dedicated sources of funding exclusively to help house teachers in The City.

"Every teacher in San Francisco is having to make a cost-benefit analysis about their future in the San Francisco Unified School District," said Brendan Furey, a social studies teacher at Lincoln High School. "Most teachers under 40 are living in insecure housing."

Efforts to build housing for teachers came about in the late 1990s when the district built what is now Dianne Feinstein Elementary School at 2550 25th Ave. in the Parkside neighborhood, said Jill Wynns, a longtime commissioner with the Board of Education.

Educators discussed constructing an apartment building for teachers on the 24th Avenue side of the site, but the idea was blocked by neighbors who reportedly were opposed to public housing in a primarily middle-income neighborhood.

"There was opposition in the neighborhood which was, in my view, kind of irrational," Wynns recalled. "One of the strongest opponents was then-Supervisor Leland Yee."

Ultimately, Wynns added, the idea was squashed and officials later learned that using state and federal money to build housing exclusively for teachers would violate the Federal Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination in housing.

The district has since conducted several feasibility studies to explore building teacher housing elsewhere, but efforts have picked up in the past year due to the recent rapid increase in rents and home prices in The City.

Following an eight-month hiatus during contract negotiations between the SFUSD and teachers union, an educator housing working group this spring reopened studying a three-prong solution to helping teachers and paraprofessionals maintain access to housing.

"I think anybody who is not situated in a home that they own at this point needs housing assistance," said Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco and a member of the educator housing working group.

Rental assistance, a housing development and homeownership assistance are the three methods that city leaders believe could make a difference in helping teachers afford to live in San Francisco, and efforts are already underway with at least one of those goals.

On May 12, Mayor Ed Lee proposed a $250 million housing bond for the November ballot that would include $5 million for the Teacher Next Door Program. Per the program, teacher households that meet certain conditions receive a $20,000 grant that can be used to purchase below-market-rate homes or to assist with down payments.

Renewing the program per Lee's bond would help 250 teachers.

Supervisor John Avalos last month also introduced a $500 million housing bond that would include funding for teacher housing in some capacity, though exact figures have not been determined.

It is all but certain that both bonds will not head to the ballot, but exactly what amount will be put before voters remains to be seen.

"I definitely want to make sure that we are building strong programs to support teachers in San Francisco and make sure that they have some financial strength to be able to live in the same city that they work," Avalos said.

Regardless of which bond is put before voters, the increased amount to the Teacher Next Door Program would mark the most The City has ever contributed to teacher housing needs, said Maria Benjamin, director of homeownership and below-market-rate home programs for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development.

Benjamin noted that The City's Downpayment Assistance Loan Program is available to teachers as well, which helps first-time home buyers purchase a home in San Francisco.

But high school teacher Furey said many teachers do not qualify for that program. Furey and his wife tried to apply last year, but their combined income narrowly exceeded $93,250, which in 2014 was the cutoff for the program at 120 percent of the area median income.

The Teacher Next Door Program, on the other hand, did not provide the couple with enough of a jumpstart to purchase a home.

"Twenty-thousand dollars does not cover the closing costs," Furey explained. "Something in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 would encourage many teachers who are thinking about leaving to remain here in San Francisco."

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017

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