Teachers skeptical of low-cost housing solution 

One local district knows it is losing teachers to the high housing prices in the area, but some teachers say a proposed low-cost housing solution is not going to solve the problem.

In January, the San Mateo-Foster City School District started a survey for employees regarding their housing situations, commutes and income levels. The results of the study — presented at Thursday night’s district board meeting in Foster City — said that many employees cannot afford to live in the area they work. The report proposes district-owned rental or for-sale homes or building apartments for teachers on school properties.

But the San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association has developed its own remedy: a 15 percent salary increase proposal. The district and the union are at an impasse in contract negotiations; the two parties will resume talks — this time with a state mediator — on May 8.

The district does not have the approximately $9 million annual amount to meet the union’s demand, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Joan Rosas said. A housing complex on land the schools already own, she explained, could be a less-expensive means of providing for teachers.

The district hopes to model any teacher housing on the College of San Mateo’s 44-unit College Vista apartment complex.

"This housing gets teachers in their community so they don’t have to commute so far and enables them to start saving," Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County Executive Director Chris Mohr said.

San Mateo-Foster City Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Mary Willis said the final cost for the housing projects depends on a number of factors, including types of housing the district wants and number of units in each complex.

Teachers say that the housing would not compensate for the low salaries paid to all teachers, or help teachers with families and mortgages. According to the California Teachers Association, starting salary for San Mateo-Foster City teachers is $39,241, falling behind districts in Menlo Park, Portola Valley, San Francisco and other Bay Area cities.

"I guess [the district is] trying, but it doesn’t seem like they’re listening all the way through," said Rebekah Lubrano, a Laurel Elementary School teacher. "If the salary were increased I’d be able to find a place to rent on my own or save money to put a down payment on something."

The report says that "respondents were not willing to commute long distance, which verifies the findings of the exit interviews that employees are leaving the school district in large part because of the high cost of housing."

School district employees

Survey findings of employees in the San Mateo-Foster City School District

» With district no more than three years: 133

» New employees’ family gross income: Less than $50,000 — $69,000

» Percent renting: 46 percent

» Employees interested in rental program: 116

jgoldman@examiner.com

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