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L.A. Teachers Make Too Much to Qualify for Affordable Housing Built for Them?

As we've reported (most recently here and here), districts around the country are increasingly looking to providing teachers with affordable housing options as an avenue to attracting and retaining more educators. But, in a somewhat ironic twist on the narrative, the results of a teacher-housing project in the Los Angeles district highlight some potential complications. 

About a decade ago, after concluding that raising housing costs were causing many young teachers to leave the district, the L.A. district decided to have developers build 156 affordable units on unused district-owned land in Gardena and Hollywood. A decade later those units are indeed home to Los Angelenos in need of affordable housing options. The catch is none of them are educators, reports the Los Angeles Times.

That's because the city's teachers, even the newest recruits, make two much money to qualify for the subsidized units. The newspaper reports that the apartments have, however, been a boon for other school employees: "The apartments designed primarily for middle-class teachers have been an unintentional boon for the cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and special education assistants who make up the lowest-paid group in the school system."

According to the paper, the starting salary for a new teacher in L.A. is just over $50,000, but to qualify for federal low-income subsidies, a housing development must cater to people who earn 30 to 60 percent of a county's area median income. In Los Angeles County, that translates to annual incomes in the $17,000 to $35,000 range, well below what educators earn. On the other hand, the average LAUSD cafeteria worker takes home less than $15,000 a year and a custodian earns about $31,000, reports the Times

Some districts have found ways to build affordable housing for teachers without federal subsidies, but those districts took a more active role in financing the projects and thus took on more risk than the L.A. district, which has struggled financially, seems willing to take on. 

"We're going to consider all the financing models," Mark Hovatter, the district's chief facilities executive, told the Times. "But we're not in the affordable-housing business, and I don't anticipate us getting in."

Which may be a problem for some teachers. A recent report by Redfin, a national real estate company, found that just 17 percent of California homes for sale are affordable on the state's average teacher salary of $73,536.

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