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San Francisco Scrambles to Make Housing More Affordable for Teachers

In a bid to improve teacher retention in the city, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and school district leaders announced an affordable-housing plan on Wednesday that includes building a designated housing complex for educators and paraprofessionals by 2020.

"An investment in a teacher is an investment in the success of our City and the success of our young people," Mayor Lee said in a press release.

The San Francisco district, which faced teacher shortages this year, is looking into the new plan partly because many educators and staff are struggling to afford to live in the city as the housing market becomes more expensive. Some teachers have even been evicted and forced to move to more affordable areas.

Mayor Lee's plan seeks to provide opportunities for stable housing for educators through a variety of options. Besides financing a 100-unit housing complex for district educators, officials are developing a rental-assistance program. Other strategies to help keep teachers in the community include renewing Teacher Next Door, a federal loan-assistance program, and investing in Housing Navigators, a counseling program that connects teachers with eviction prevention services and other resources, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The plan aims to help provide affordable housing for 500 teachers. It would be paid for through multiple sources, including a $310 million Affordable Housing Bond measure on the city's election ballot this November.

Specific details are still in the works. Although city and school officials haven't identified any locations, the new housing complex would be built on land already owned by the school district, according to SFGate. It also isn't determined who would be qualified for housing.

San Francisco wouldn't be the first city in California to take this approach. The Los Angeles Unified School District has recently moved to construct three apartment complexes for its teachers. The Oakland Unified School District is also considering making similar plans. Santa Clara's school district created a teacher housing project back in 2002.

California is among the most expensive states to live in, but affordable housing for teachers is a nationwide issue and many cities have embarked on similar initiatives. Newark, N.J., opened a development project back in 2013 known as Teachers Village. Under the reported design plans, final construction is scheduled to finish in 2016, with the village encompassing three charter schools, eight apartment buildings for teachers, a daycare facility, and retail shops. Smaller-scale urban teacher-housing developments have also been launched in Baltimore and Philadelphia as well.

The long-term impact of teacher housing complexes on school systems is unclear, but some local studies point to positive early results. Since 2006, a group of rural districts in North Carolina has constructed four apartment complexes exclusively for teachers. In a 2013 survey conducted by North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the majority of the teachers, both current and former residents, reported that affordable housing influenced their decision to stay and teach in the area. More than half agreed that the low rent allows them to live comfortably, and that the housing program contributed to their job satisfaction.

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