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Tiny Houses Help Educators Afford a Place to Live (Video)

By Lisa Stark 

Under normal circumstances, Arizona 5th grade teacher Sydney Scharer could never afford to live in the community where she teaches.

Vail, Ariz., about 30 miles southeast of Tucson, has no apartments and housing prices average $260,000. That's far out of reach for a local teacher, who earns around $38,000 a year. 

It's a common problem across the country, with teachers and school districts struggling with the lack of affordable housing, and looking for solutions. 

Scharer is now living in Vail thanks to a new initiative by the school district. "Their idea," says Scharer, "was to build a community of tiny homes for teachers."

The district is developing a five-acre property it owns—adding the necessary infrastructure to accommodate 24 tiny homes. It will lease the sites for $125 a month to teachers, who can rent or buy a tiny home of their own. 

"This housing project is not an option for everybody," says Associate Superintendent John Carruth. "This isn't 'the' solution. It is a piece of the solution, though."

Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, laments the fact that something like this is necessary. "I think what is missing is the idea of respect for a professional", he said, adding that teachers should be able to "earn enough to where like any other professional you can go out and purchase a home to call your own."

But Scharer jumped at the opportunity offered by the district, becoming the first teacher to move in to a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom house. 

"The plan," she says,"is to make this a space where teachers can live and save and do what they want to do and be a part of the Vail community" 

See also: District 'Wellness Center' Keeps Teachers Healthy, and Happy

This video is the third in an Education Week series featuring four districts that are thinking outside the box when it comes to building a supportive work environment. 

Other districts are offering benefits such as onsite child care, sabbaticals, and wellness centers for teachers. 

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