How parking became a magic solution to this school district’s housing crisis

“It’s amazing,” Worden says of the building. “The goal was to create a product that was on par with the market price (replacements). It would rival the buildings I saw in San Francisco.

He remembers giving tours to interested employees and enjoying the sounds of their voices as they entered individual units. Many did not know what to expect from the development of the area, but once they arrived at the building, they were impressed.

Colleagues are like neighbors

Cruz was one of the employees who found herself pleasantly surprised by the finished product.

The 67-year-old recalls hearing about the plan to develop education workforce housing a few years ago, and says she started looking for a unit in the new complex “the minute they started construction.”

“Housing is very difficult here,” says Cruz, who was born and raised in San Francisco. “None of us are getting paid what we deserve.”

She and her husband were paying more rent than they were comfortable living in a Daly City apartment building she describes as rundown. And because of their modest salaries — she is an administrative assistant to a high school principal at JUHSD, and her husband drives a mail truck for the San Francisco Unified School District — they are maxed out.

“We were paying more and more every year for less and less,” Cruz says, explaining that their rent would always go up even as the building’s conditions deteriorated.

So, when Cruz learned that she and her husband would be moving into a two-bedroom apartment in the complex last spring — and paying $1,000 less per month than their previous rent — she was thrilled.

“This was a godsend,” she says.

Cruz says the building is beautiful, and the amenities are in line with those found in luxury buildings. But most importantly, they are affordable.

“This housing project has really allowed people like me to continue to live and work in this area, and it has also allowed teachers who never had a place of their own to have a place and not have to work two or three jobs to support themselves,” she explained. “It was a very nice situation.”

For a relatively small school district with about 25 percent of its total staff in one building, residents are bound to see familiar faces in the elevators and along the hallways. Cruz lives between a colleague she knew from her old job in the district and a counselor at the high school where she currently works.

She says she regularly meets her neighbor, a counselor, at the fitness center. You see other colleagues in the shared laundry room.

“I had to get used to saying, ‘Okay, you guys are going to see me in my baggy clothes,'” Cruz says. But she actually enjoys living in a community with her colleagues in the area.

“There’s a certain pride in taking care of where we all live and support each other,” Cruz says. “I like to park next to people I know I don’t want to hit their car and they don’t want to hit mine. It’s familiar without being intrusive.”

The problem has been resolved?

After a year of living in district housing, Cruz has noticed that turnover has slowed, at least at her school.

“This year was the first time we didn’t have to replace 10 teachers at the end of the school year,” she says.

District leaders say it’s too early to make comprehensive assessments of employee turnover. Tina Van Raavorst, JUHSD’s deputy superintendent of business services, says they don’t expect to have “solid data” until December. But what it does have is anecdotal evidence, and this looks promising.

JUHSD began the 2022-23 school year — the first full year since the dorm opened — with all teaching positions filled, “at a time when some other districts in our region and statewide were unable to find enough teachers,” Van Raavorst shared. Email message. I’ve heard from at least a couple of teachers who say they stayed in the district because of staff housing and from others who say they were able to access internships and other extracurriculars for the district because their commutes are shorter or they don’t have to work a second job in the evenings.

Worden, director of employee housing, shares that the housing subsidy has helped with employment as well. The district hired a teacher who came from Los Angeles after hearing about staff housing. Another teacher from North Carolina who had always wanted to teach and live in the Bay Area decided to move across the country after learning she could live in the area’s subsidized housing.

“We’re already seeing the positive benefits of that,” Worden says.

Is this it? Is the issue resolved in JUHSD?

In the short term, yes, Worden says.

The only problem is that right now, residents have been told they can live in the district-owned apartment for five years. The idea is to “encourage residents to save financially for their future home,” Worden says, “along with giving space to future employees who want the opportunity to live in the educational housing building.”

Cruz doubts that anyone in the district — a teacher or school support staff like her — will be able to save enough money in five years to buy a home in the district. The rent is a huge improvement over what many residents were paying, but in many places, those prices would still be eye-watering.

However, Worden points out that this five-year limit is not set in stone. It has the potential to expand, depending on the demand for housing in the area. (There is currently a waiting list for units.)

So far, the project has been such a success that Worden hopes to see more school districts using their land assets for teacher housing. And based on the number of people who have inquired about the project and asked to tour the complex, he likely will do so soon.

Other district leaders are often asked to be creative. Do they have an old sports field they can build on? Or perhaps, as in the case of JUHSD, an empty parking lot?

As for Cruz, she will remain in her place as long as she is allowed to.

“The rent is so affordable that I’m afraid to stop working,” she says. “I don’t really think I’ll have the opportunity to retire anytime soon, so I feel like I’m planning for it now. I’ll keep working as long as I can, and we’ll continue to live here.”

Once her time is up? Well, fortunately, her husband’s school district had started an affordable housing project for teachers. Maybe next, the couple will call this community their home.

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