Many teachers, other school workers, can’t afford to live where they work

November 2, 2016 | By

High school teachers earning a median salary can afford to buy a home in just 62 percent of metropolitan areas analyzed by the National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy. The affordability picture appears bleaker for other school workers.

The report, “Paycheck to Paycheck: A Snapshot of Affordability for School Workers,” takes a look at the local median wages of five categories of school workers, such as child care teachers and bus drivers, in 210 metropolitan areas. The report sought to explain whether single-income households of school workers could afford rental housing or homeownership in these respective metros.

Housing is commonly considered affordable if utilities and rent or a mortgage payment don’t exceed 30 percent of a household’s income.

Read more: 5 cities where working class families can still find affordable homes

“School workers provide essential services to their communities and yet many are unable to afford to live near where they work,” the report states. “Teacher-specific affordable housing programs are important but can also overlook the difficulties faced by other workers in the education sector.”

The report highlights possible solutions to address the affordability problem for school workers. At the federal level, there’s the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which subsidizes new construction or rehabilitation of homes. Another federal solution includes offering down payment assistance loans or grants, according to the report.

Here are five categories of school workers, their national median salaries, and the affordable housing challenges they face:

  1. Child care teacher (median salary: $29,539)

Stable child care can lead to better educational outcomes, but many workers in this field face difficulty with affordable housing near their workplace. Child care teachers earning a local median salary can afford to rent a typical two-bedroom home in only 4 percent of the metro areas studied in the report. That’s nine out of 210.

Homeownership is possible for only 13 out of 210 metropolitan areas, or 6 percent.

While homeownership would be out of the question in pricey areas such as San Francisco, even in “moderately priced” Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the cost of homeownership there would take up 74 percent of the local, median child care teacher’s paycheck, according to the report.

  1. Bus driver (median salary: $23,412)

Bus drivers, who are responsible for safely transporting students, require “a combination of technical skills and the ability to manage their charges. They also have the lowest earnings of workers in the five occupations highlighted in this report,” according to the study.

Bus drivers can’t afford a typical two-bedroom rental or to buy a home in any of the 210 metros studied based on local median salaries and the standard rule that 30 percent of one’s income goes toward housing.

Even in Youngstown, Ohio, where the median home sales price is $79,000, the qualifying income is $22,227. Meanwhile, the median salary for a bus driver in Youngstown is $22,171.

  1. Groundskeeper (median salary: $34,214)

Like bus drivers, groundskeepers are an important part of maintaining the safety of facilities used by students and teachers, and they likewise may often have trouble finding affordable housing.

Groundskeepers could afford to rent a typical two-bedroom home in 57 out of 210 metros analyzed, or 27 percent, based on their local median salaries. They could afford to buy a home in only 25 out of 210 metros, or 12 percent.

  1. Social worker (median salary: $52,538)

Social workers earn the second-highest wages of workers studied in this report. Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work earning a local median salary can afford to rent a two-bedroom home in 90 percent of the metros, or 188 out of 210.

Buying a home is more difficult, however. They can afford to buy in 52 percent of metros, or 110 out of 210, based on a median-priced home, according to the report.

  1. High school teacher (median salary: $56,882)

High school teachers have the highest median salaries of the five categories of school workers in the report. But their salaries can vary greatly based on experience and education.

Based on their local median income, high school teachers can afford to rent a typical two-bedroom home in 94 percent of the metros analyzed. Those unaffordable areas include high-cost cities such as Honolulu, Hawaii.

Homeownership is a more challenging prospect. A high school teacher earning a local median salary can afford a median-priced home in 62 percent of the metros, or 130 out of 210.

Read more: Making an affordable mortgage product easier to use, available to more homebuyers

Home Studies

The report also highlights programs by states and municipalities that help teachers and others with affordable housing. For example, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s Teachers Mortgage Assistance Program provides loans below market rates to teachers who work in “priority or transitional” districts that may struggle to attract teachers, the report points out. Massachusetts’ ONE Mortgage Program helps first-time, low-income homebuyers by combining down payment assistance, savings on fees and mortgage insurance, and an interest rate buy-down into a single mortgage.

“Many of the programs mentioned here have proven to be very successful in increasing access to housing for low- and moderate-income households, including many school workers,” the report concludes. “It is important to ensure that communities offer housing that is affordable to households at all income levels.”

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