Affordable housing for teachers? California owns plenty of land for that.

Image of a quality apartment complex.

Researchers found that providing housing for educators increases education equity and housing affordability. California counties own land that can make that happen. (Credit: cityLAB UCLA)

New research from UC Berkeley has the potential to influence state policy aimed at providing affordable housing to public school teachers and staff.

The report, “Education Workforce Housing in California: Developing the 21st Century Campus,” was published today by UC Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at Berkeley, and cityLAB at UCLA. The research, developed in collaboration with the California School Boards Association and funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, looked at tens of thousands of potential California housing sites and found that counties across the state own public land that can be designed and developed to house public school teachers and staff.

Researchers found that the scarcity of affordable housing in California impacts the quality of K-12 education because public school teachers and employees often cannot live in the communities where they work. School districts then face challenges in recruiting and retaining staff, which creates instability that can lead to worsening outcomes for students and acute staffing shortages.

According to the report, California local education agencies own 75,000 acres of land containing over 4,000 properties in areas where teachers face housing affordability challenges. Using that land to provide education workforce housing can positively impact education equity and housing affordability, said Terner Center Research Director Elizabeth Kneebone.

“The state’s growing teacher shortages have a disproportionate impact on already disadvantaged students,” Kneebone said. “Addressing the housing affordability challenges that so many teachers face is an important step in both attracting and retaining teachers and improving outcomes for California’s students.”

State policy changes like the Teacher Housing Act of 2016 have enabled school districts to pursue affordable housing for employees by leveraging programs and fiscal resources. But policymakers must take additional steps to streamline the process for building housing on school lands, said Terner Center Policy Director David Garcia.

As an aid to that process, the new report lays out a range of housing design strategies and provides a road map for school districts to explore ways to enable more teachers and staff to live in the communities where they work. An illustrated handbook that accompanies the report is a how-to guide for school boards, administrators and community members to advocate for education workforce housing in their communities.

“The key is to look at where there might be opportunities to develop underutilized land or otherwise reconfigure uses on their properties,” said Jeff Vincent, co-founder of Center for Cities + Schools. “It’s about getting strategic and getting creative.”

Read the full report here.