Teacher housing bill reaches governor’s desk: Leno’s law aims to help districts seeking housing as means of attracting educators

 

A bill authored by a local legislator aiming to clear the path for school districts interested in building teacher housing made its way to the governor’s desk and is waiting approval.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D- San Francisco, proposed Senate Bill 1413 explicitly allowing districts to use surplus property for developing workforce housing and he hopes that could make it easier for officials to seek state, federal, private and other funding sources such as tax credits to finance the projects.

If approved, the Teacher Housing Act of 2016 could have significant implications in San Mateo County, as some local districts have discussed building affordable workforce housing as a means of fighting the escalating cost of living for staff.

San Mateo Union High and South San Francisco Unified school district officials have in recent months examined such initiatives, while the San Mateo County Community College District completed a variety of teacher housing projects and future developments are planned.

Marc Friedman, a member of the San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees, said he favored Gov. Jerry Brown signing the legislation, as it would help the district move ahead with designs to build teacher housing on the campus of Mills Hills School and the former Crestmoor High School site in San Bruno.

“I hope he signs it, because it clears the way to do this in a way so it cannot be challenged,” he said.

The proposed law would allow the district to reserve a housing project built on school property solely for teachers and other staff without facing threat of a lawsuit claiming the units must be available to other residents, said Friedman.

The San Mateo Union High School District hired a consultant to help officials design their teacher housing project, and the issue is set to come back before for further consideration in October, said Friedman.

Leno also said he hopes Brown will sign the legislation designed to help school districts lure qualified educators, while addressing the dearth of affordable housing throughout the Bay Area and state.

“California’s growing teacher shortage and housing affordability challenges require innovative solutions,” he said in a prepared statement. “SB 1413 allows school districts to retain quality teachers, reduce staff replacement costs and foster a sense of community by directly addressing employee housing needs.”

The bill could help facilitate private organizations working in tandem with a school district to build affordable housing projects, as it preserves the eligibility of applicants to seek additional federal financing for construction.

Leno’s bill passed the Senate in a 30-8 vote on Monday, Aug. 29, and the Assembly passed it last week by a 62-18 vote. Wednesday, Aug. 31, was the final day for the Legislature to consider bills before the end of session.

The bill also aims to help stem teacher turnover caused by so many educators struggling to keep their head above water against the rising tide of housing costs.

The teaching crunch was felt by many districts along the Peninsula over the summer, as school officials from a variety of nearby districts competed to hire the most qualified educators from a shrinking pool of workers.

Local school officials have said they are hard-pressed to find many young professionals interested in taking teaching jobs, because many of those who are qualified opt to pursue higher compensation in the private technology industry.

The issue is further compounded by the shrinking number of college graduates pursuing teaching credentials, officials have said.

San Mateo Union High School District officials opted to follow the path established by the county community college district in pursuing housing construction under the assumption the developments could serve as an asset when competing for talented teachers.

Friedman said he supports the bill, under a belief that building affordable teacher housing is one of the more innovative approaches to addressing a concern spread throughout the Peninsula and Bay Area.

“It’s a regional issue everywhere,” he said.

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