Teachers can’t afford to live in San Jose
The San Jose Unified School District is pictured in this file photo.

Affordable housing remains elusive for young teachers in San Jose, leaving them with long commutes or forcing them to look for jobs elsewhere.

The high cost of living in the Bay Area is challenging for new teachers and other employees, including cafeteria workers and groundskeepers, said San Jose Unified School District spokesperson Jennifer Maddox.

“It’s hard to attract teachers and to get the high quality we want when they’re being paid at rates that aren’t livable in our area,” Maddox said. “It’s certainly something that is very concerning for us. We have to find a way we can make it work for the community and employees.”

According to Bay Area Market Reports, the median sales price for homes in Santa Clara County during the second quarter of 2021 was $1,665,000. Condo median sales were $730,000 during the first two quarters of 2021. At $3,051 per month for a two-bedroom rental, fair market rent prices in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara are more expensive than 99% of other fair market rent areas nationally, according to RentData.org.

A report released this week says the San Jose metro area is the second most expensive rental market in the country. And according to Glassdoor, teachers in San Jose take home an average base pay of $65,118 a year.

Maddox said the school district is considering building affordable housing for teachers or supplementing housing costs. While well-established teachers earn enough to afford to live in the area, those just starting out can’t afford to rent without roommates, she said. And this is problematic when they want to get married and have kids.

The district has steady teacher resignation numbers, Maddox said, but exit surveys show 45% of employees who left in the 2020-21 school year cited moving and the cost of living as the cause, compared with 36% in 2019-20.

According to EdData, SJUSD had 1,537 teachers in 2017-18 and 1,484 teachers in the 2018-19 school year. No data is available for 2019-20 or 2020-21. Another major school district, East Side Union High, had 1,236 teachers in the 2017-18 school year and 1,223 teachers in the 2018-19 school year.

Jenay Enna, principal of Sakamoto Elementary School in the Oak Grove School District, said the cost of living in the area is so high that it’s difficult to establish yourself as a homeowner or start a family.

She said newer teachers in the district commute from other areas or live with parents or roommates. If they’re trying to buy a house, they’re going to Hollister and commuting in, or moving to districts with shorter commutes, she said.

“For young teachers starting their career it’s definitely a challenge,” Enna said. “What does make a commute more attractive is… they’re making more money in San Jose and bringing the money back.”

East Side Union High School District Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee said with the cost of living and rent, the district is lucky to recruit and retain qualified teachers.

“Some of our teachers are able to live locally and some of our teachers commute in order to be able to work here,” Vander Zee said.

He said to make ends meet, some district teachers live in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Santa Cruz and the East Bay.

Shawn Brose, a teacher at Bret Harte Middle School in the San Jose Unified School District, said he is relocating because of the high cost of housing in the Bay Area.

“Everything is so expensive,” Brose said. “If you’re not making six figures, you’re probably sharing a house with a bunch of people or renting a shed. It’s brutal and people are pulling up stakes because of it.”

Brose said he lived in a shed on a property in the Santa Cruz Mountains for three years.

“It’s fine if you’re in your 20s,” the 34-year-old said. “But when you’re trying to get established, its unacceptable to live that way.”

Brose is moving to the Chico area. He said he can get a $350,000 four-bedroom home on two acres of land with a mortgage of $1,700 a month there.

“It’s a real shame it has to be this way,” Brose said. “I did enjoy working at Bret Harte. I’ll miss the staff and students, but it’s untenable and that’s sad.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert and [email protected]

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