I have been concerned about housing affordability for teachers and other school employees for many years. Twelve years ago our school district and members of the Board of Education was talking about housing support for teachers. We got an architect to do a study of the conditions necessary to build teacher housing and had a developer interested in building a teacher housing project on school district land. We also did a conceptual design for an apartment building that was to have been a component of the new Dianne Feinstein School. The school is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year with no housing on the site.
Shockingly, we faced strong opposition to this project from neighbors, at least one member of the Board of Supervisors and even some of the members of the School Board. Some teacher groups questioned whether anyone would want to live in a “teacher town” and neighbors, including teachers among them, calling the proposed building “public housing” around which we should be concerned that crime would escalate. The teacher’s union took the position that we had to be prepared to provide the same benefit for all teachers, whether they owned a home in San Francisco or were newly arrived and struggling to find affordable housing.
Over the years we continued to talk to the teachers union, to make repeated statements of support at the Board and to study what others were doing about housing support for educators. But, we fell behind the curve when we might have had some momentum and been leaders in this area.
Today, finding housing in San Francisco is an existential crisis for teachers, and will be for the school district if we do not do something.
Teaching and other school jobs cannot be outsourced; we must have a way for our employees to live in San Francisco if we are to have a viable school district for future generations. The one major asset that we have to contribute to this enterprise is land. We are not sitting on lots of empty land, but we have some school sites with extra land and we have a few pieces of land that we can possibly use for housing.
We have seriously engaged with the city to expand housing subsidies that can help school employees to live here. And, the new housing bond that the city passed includes funding that may be used to build a teacher housing project on school district land. Our November bond includes
$5 million to invest in educator housing. Our main contribution to this effort will be land. We are finally on the road to addressing this crisis, ten or twelve years late, but better late than never.
This is one of my highest priorities. I challenge our entire community to step up for our educators.