San Jose school district wants to subsidize teacher housing
San Antonio Elementary School, an Alum Rock Union School District campus, is pictured in this file photo.

San Jose residents may be asked to support subsidized housing for Alum Rock Union School District teachers on the November ballot.

The East San Jose school district is exploring whether creating below-market housing for its workers is possible. If officials find it is, the district will look to voters to fund the roughly $27 million project.

District Superintendent Hilaria Bauer said one of two funding options could come before constituents: create a new bond or use the remaining funds from 2012’s Measure J, which has a balance of about $50 million. Measure J authorized the school district to borrow $125 million to refurbish campuses, update computer systems and remove asbestos and mold. It passed with nearly 80% of the vote.

“For beginning teachers and staff, housing prices are just too expensive,” Bauer told San José Spotlight. “So this would help us be competitive and recruit more young professionals.”

School board President Andres Quintero, who introduced the idea, said having subsidized housing for teachers and staff would also be a win for the community.

“We would do our part to help the housing crisis or relieving some of the pressure that has been felt right now because many of the (550 teachers) won’t be in the market looking for housing,” Quintero told San José Spotlight.

Based on preliminary plans, the rent would be 65% below market rate—a significant difference that could make living in San Jose a much more affordable reality, Quintero said. Teachers in local districts struggle to live in the South Bay, one of the most expensive places to rent in the nation.

Alum Rock Union School District ranks 28 out of Santa Clara County’s 34 school districts in terms of starting salary, which has been a point of contention between teachers and the district. In 2021, they declared an impasse during salary negotiations because teachers wanted a 4.5% raise, but the district offered 3%. They eventually met in the middle with a 3.25% raise, plus a 3% one-time bonus for teachers.

“But the long term issues still persist. We’re not in Palo Alto. We’re not a very wealthy district,” Quintero said. “We have to use the assets that we have to try to help us compete in a very, very difficult market where there is a teacher shortage nationwide.”

Subsidized housing success

Quintero pointed to the success of Santa Clara Unified School District, which created subsidized teacher housing in 2002.

Santa Clara Unified spokesperson Jennifer Dericco said the attrition rate for young teachers living in the community had been less than one-third of that for the district’s teachers with similar tenure not receiving this benefit. About of quarter of teachers in the district said the program enabled them to save enough money to buy a home, with rents between $1,210-1,905.

There is still considerable legwork that needs to be completed before a ballot measure is drafted, however, Bauer and Quintero said. The district needs to survey both employees and residents to see if there is support—which they hope to complete by May.

“We also need to assess the capacity of our district,” Bauer said. “We have a sort of parallel bond that we are working on to fund refurbishing our sites.”

Then the plans and measure language need to go back to the school board for final approval to meet an August deadline.

“If we don’t do it now, we are going to have to wait another two years to get voter permission,” Bauer said.

Just two weeks ago, the district formed a committee and hired Dale Scott & Co. to create the surveys, identify different plans and sites and help draft the measure language.

Dale Scott & Co. is the firm behind the new subsidized teacher housing opening next month in Daly City’s Jefferson Union High School District. The firm is also working on similar projects with Soledad Unified School District in Monterey County, Santa Cruz city schools and Pasadena Unified School District in Los Angeles County.

“These housing projects are very hard to put together, but I think they are going to see more and more districts attempting,” Dale Scott, president of Dale Scott & Co., told San José Spotlight.

Scott said Alum Rock’s biggest challenge, aside from securing funding, will be to find an appropriate site to build a subsided housing project since the district does not have any excess land, unlike Santa Clara Unified and other school districts that have taken steps toward housing.

“The benefit to the community, in my opinion, is even greater,” Scott said. “Our communities are better off by having people who work and teach in the schools live in the community and become a part of the community.”

The Alum Rock Union School District housing committee will have its second public meeting on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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