With an exodus of teachers fleeing pricey Silicon Valley, the city’s largest university is weighing how to create affordable housing for educators on district-owned land.
San Jose State University envisions partnering with public school districts across Santa Clara County to combat the housing crisis and the soaring cost of living dilemma that has driven teachers and students out of the Bay Area. The university is also considering how it can use the Alquist building, acquired in January 2020, to house its faculty, staff and graduate students, plus teachers and employees from various school districts.
Chris Norwood, board president of Milpitas Unified School District, said he was enthusiastic about the concept after San Jose State University President Cynthia Teniente-Matson shared a presentation on the university’s willingness to partner with school districts to build teacher housing.
“They build it, but then we sublease or lease a certain number of units from them for our educator staff, which is a powerful value proposition,” Norwood said. “It may reduce the need for some school districts to get into the affordable housing business.”
“We have a housing crisis where the folks that we already have are struggling to stay,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to get anybody to come here and we can’t keep (who) we have.”
Norwood said affordable housing for teachers could expand and diversify Milpitas school district’s teacher workforce.
“There are teachers across the country, around the world that are interested in working in California, but the biggest barrier is the cost of living,” he said. “Milpitas has 57 different languages. The more diverse that we are… the better outcome we can have for all of our wide variety of students.”
San Jose State University spokesperson Michelle Smith McDonald said Teniente-Matson shared a scenario for a future collaboration with K-12 school districts on educator housing but there isn’t a firm plan or commitment in the works yet.
“There are no imminent plans with any K-12 or community college partners,” she told San José Spotlight. “We will continue to talk about possibilities and explore opportunities… because we know that is what will ultimately benefit students.”
Charlie Faas, chief financial officer for San Jose State University, said teachers making $80,000 can’t afford market rate housing in the region and many report two-hour commutes each way. Faas said he spoke with San Jose Unified School District and Evergreen Valley College in the past about developing teacher housing, but it didn’t materialize.
Faas said in the Alquist building, there is room for teachers and employees from other school districts like San Jose Unified, Bellarmine College Preparatory or Alum Rock Union School District. He said having affordable housing closer to work improves a person’s quality of life and aids in attracting and retaining staff.
“You can’t afford to live and rent if you have a family in this area,” he said. “If you’re going to work an eight-hour day, and you’re commuting two hours each way, now you’re in a 12-hour workday.”
Faas said school districts and community colleges have land but may not be equipped to develop it, while the state university can through public/private partnerships.
“(We) have state jurisdiction and I can come in and I can help them build and we would partner on that,” he said. “Ideally this model that we’re doing at the Alquist could be replicated at other locations.”
Bob Nunez, co-chair of La Raza Roundtable, which brings together community organizations, community leaders and elected officials to impact positive change, said providing affordable housing for teachers close to where they work is crucial.
“There is not one district that doesn’t have land available for teacher housing,” he said. “If this becomes a funding mechanism, it can go a long way to help meet everyone’s housing needs. If we’re short housing and talking about bringing in new teachers, this is a good way to entice them to come to a lot of the districts that are really in need.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].