The San Mateo Community College District is laying the foundation for the construction of more affordable teacher and staff housing, which officials claim would add to a notable asset integral in making the district a desirable destination for talented workers.
The public review period for the proposed construction of an affordable staff housing project on the campus of Skyline College in San Bruno ends Thursday, Oct. 15, closing the window for community members to express their concerns regarding the potential environmental impact of the development.
Barbara Christensen, the district’s director of community and government relations, said officials have not received any comments on the proposal to build the development comprised of single-family homes and apartments reserved for faculty and staff.
Should the proposal not face any formal opposition, the development could gain approval by the Board of Trustees in December with an eye toward beginning construction next year, said Christensen.
The Skyline project, should it be constructed, would add to the more than 100 affordably priced units the district already has in place for teachers and faculty on the Cañada College and College of San Mateo campuses.
The living environments are tremendously popular, said Christensen, as there is constantly a waiting list of about 70 district employees who have applied to live in the buildings.
Chancellor Ron Galatolo said, in an email, the ability to offer housing helps establish the district as an appealing destination for top-notch educators.
“Not only has the housing the college district created added to the affordable housing stock in the county, but also I believe the housing has created a competitive advantage for the college district in this high housing cost region,” he said. “By providing housing for employees and offering our loan program, we are able to recruit and retain some of the brightest and best employees at all levels to serve our students.”
Christensen said though many district employees wish to live in the units, priority is granted to those who are interested in buying their first home, and the housing can serve as a means to offer young workers a stable living environment while they save for a down payment.
Rents range between $875 to $1,100 per month for single-bedroom units, about $1,200 to $1,350 for two-bedroom units and $1,700 per month for a few three-bedroom units with two bathrooms, said Christensen.
Tenants can stay in the units for up to seven years, after which many have the option to apply for a $50,000 second loan program through the district which charges a minimal interest rate over a 10-year lifespan, and ultimately requires the homebuyer to pay back a portion of their home value appreciation.
Christensen said the housing and loan program has served as an effective means of breeding loyalty between workers and their employer, which works to retain quality staff.
“What this has given us is stability in our workforce,” she said.
The housing projects have served as a model for other school districts which are considering similar developments, such as the San Mateo Union High School District and the South San Francisco Unified School District.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D- San Mateo, in a letter sent to the San Mateo Union High School District, recently expressed admiration for the community college projects, and encouraged other local districts to use it as an example.
Christensen said she has met with officials from a variety of other districts, to educate them on the process, which she said is relatively simple to grasp.
“It’s not rocket science,” she said.
Officials initially elected to move forward with building housing on the College of San Mateo campus in 2000, after a survey of employees showed a majority were so concerned with the cost of housing in the region, they were prepared to leave the district soon, said Christensen.
Considering the existing demand for affordable housing more than a decade ago, Christensen said it did not require a great deal of vision to take the plunge and build the project on district land, which at the time was being used as a parking lot.
“We must have been having a housing crisis back then, because it was very clear to us there was an issue,” she said. “It didn’t take a lot of foresight.”
Initially, Christensen said she expected the building cost associated with the College of San Mateo project would take 25 years to pay off, but due to the popularity of the program, officials have bumped up that timeline by about seven years.
Once the developments at Cañada and College of San Mateo are fully paid off, Christensen said she expects the district to earn nearly $1.5 million annually in unrestricted revenue.
She said offering quality, stable housing has established a substantial amount of good will between the district and the workers who occupy the housing.
“The employees that live there, they are incredibly grateful,” she said. “They are our best employees.”
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