Supervisors set aside $6M for teacher housing in Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Supervisors set aside $6M for teacher housing in Palo Alto

County seeks funding partners for affordable housing project

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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to set aside $6 million in an affordable-housing fund toward the potential construction of a below-market-rate complex in Palo Alto for teachers and school staff.

The board approved a staff recommendation on a 4-0-1 vote, with Supervisor Dave Cortese abstaining. Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed in January that the county seek funding partnerships with local school districts, cities and private funders to redevelop a county-owned site at 231 Grant Ave., near the California Avenue Business District. His office, local teachers unions and housing organizations have described teachers' desperate need for more affordable housing closer to where they work.

Simitian described the $6 million — which will come from a fund generated by Stanford University under the university's 2000 General Use Permit with the county — as a "modest commitment" that will be leveraged to find further financial support for the project.

Cortese, however, said he wasn't convinced this is the best model for addressing teacher housing needs.

"In my years as a school board member we looked at this kind of a model and then dismissed it as an inefficient way of providing affordable housing for teachers relative to putting money aside in funds that would be used for actual, direct cash subsidies for teachers," he said.

The county could instead use $6 million to provide $500 monthly stipends to teachers and staff rather than get tied up in fair housing rules, construction cost and debates over who can access the 60 to 120 housing units, Cortese said.

Simitian previously estimated that construction of a multifamily complex could cost $500,000 to $600,000 per unit.

Cortese said the largest teachers' association in his district, which includes San Jose, Milpitas and Sunnyvale, does not support the proposed housing model.

Simitian compared the financial pledge to one the Board of Supervisors made in 2015 to help prevent the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto from closing. The city of Palo Alto and the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County committed millions of dollars in response.

"We need to put something out there that somebody else could respond to," Simitian told his colleagues before their vote on Tuesday.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez also asked staff to return with a proposal for engaging with school board associations in a broader conversation about school districts and land use in Santa Clara County.

Several local educational and housing entities have written letters of support for the Grant Avenue housing proposal, including the Palo Alto Educators Association, the superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the San Jose Teachers Association, California Teachers Association, Bay Area Forward and Support Teacher Housing.


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33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2018 at 3:04 pm

The misleading part of this is that any housing built in Palo Alto specifically for teachers does not mean it will house teachers who work in Palo Alto. It does mean teachers that work anywhere in Santa Clara County.

This does not mean that teachers will live in the area in which they work and it will not mean that they can ride their bikes, walk or even use public transportation to get to their work place school. It also means that the spouses of teachers living in this housing will possibly but unlikely be able to bike, walk, or use public transportation to get to their jobs.

This will not mean less traffic and it will not mean that the housing does not need parking spaces.

21 people like this
Posted by Nancy S
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 17, 2018 at 6:51 pm

Nancy S is a registered user.

Teacher housing is key to a Palo Alto culture of inclusivity. Indeed, housing teachers together from different districts will be more rewarding for our community, as it puts a long standing community priority of quality education for all into action, and secures a small beginning to get teachers living in our community again.

Teachers help create our amazing quality of life and deserve the same where they live and raise their families. Sadly, this is not the current experience for many teachers serving our schools in and near Palo Alto.

Thank you to the supervisors for launching this new beginning. Now, let’s get it built!

-Nancy Shepherd

30 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

We have teachers living in our community.

Does it make sense to use the most expensive real estate in the country, not to mention Santa Clara County, to build housing for countywide teacher housing? Is there not cheaper real estate in Morgan Hill, Milpitas or Santa Clara?

9 people like this
Posted by Jessica Clark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Nancy Shepherd you said it perfectly! I am so excited for this and hope it will be a launching pad for other projects throughout the county. It is important we give assistance to those who directly serve our communities and are truly struggling due to outrageous housing/rental prices. I have high hopes that this project will happen!

13 people like this
Posted by Gail Price
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2018 at 10:49 pm

I strongly support the proposal to set aside $6 million dollars for the creation of below market rate housing units for teachers and staff. Since housing, rental and purchase, is well beyond the reach of many this will be one of many ways to increase opportunities. Many districts have trouble recruiting and retaining staff because their employees can’t find “affordablle” housing within a reasonable commuting distance; some teachers drive incredible distances or simply move away from the Bay Area or out of state to find reasonable housing costs.

I applaud Supervisor Joe Simitian and his colleagues for this important vote. As a parent and former School Board member, I believe this is an important and needed step and will enable at least some teachers/staff to live and work in Santa Clara County. Other districts and community colleges have successfully done this and we certainly should too! Perhaps this will inspire other sectors to explore new housing ideas to support workers.

9 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:38 am

Hopefully the re-sale value of the teacher starter shelter, if it is not a rental unit, will be sufficient for a teacher to eventually afford a real home, have a family, and establish roots. This program is surely a good gesture and starting point, but is far from filling the need. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to buy a dilapidated home in 1999 15 miles from Palo Alto. It was done on a financial shoestring, and renovated with my own hands. Today I would not come close to qualifying for the very same home even though my teaching income has increased around 40%. Clearly teachers don't deserve mansions, or country club status, but teacher ghettos are just a band aid and won't keep teachers around who want to raise their own children.

5 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:39 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Joe for continuing to push this forward.

The housing will be open to teachers in Palo Alto and neighboring districts and the land is county land that is being donated.

So it absolutely makes sense to build the housing here where we have a gift of the land.

21 people like this
Posted by Stipends
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 9:28 am

"The county could instead use $6 million to provide $500 monthly stipends to teachers and staff"

This is a better idea than teacher housing. A stipend would offer teachers currently struggling to pay rent the ability to stay in their current homes and neighborhoods. Teacher housing would force them to move out of their homes and into a special complex (if they manage to get a spot).

With stipends teachers can live in the communities where they work and they can decide what type of housing is appropriate for their lifestyle. With teacher housing chances are slim the housing you have is the housing people need or want. We'll have studios in Palo Alto for San Jose teachers with 2 kids.

Stipends would be more appealing to new teachers the district is trying to attract. Maybe they have 3 kids and want a single family home, maybe they want to live in a vibrant downtown, maybe their spouse works in Sunnyvale and they would prefer to live there. With stipends they can do all of those things, with teacher housing they can do none of them.

16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2018 at 10:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District pays a housing bonus to firefighters who live closer to the District - and the closer they live the higher the bonus.

3 people like this
Posted by Fair Housing?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Doesn't this violate fair housing laws? How can housing have an occupation requirement? That seems almost for sure illegal. Can I say that only people with certain jobs can live in my rental units?

5 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:42 pm

I think it’s better to set aside more money to help teachers make down payments on homes and pay back to the district in proportion to the increase when they sell, to help more teachers buy homes. This is the best way to get them to stay here long term. On my street, I can think of a half dozen teachers, including young ones. There was usually some way to get the downpayment from another home purchase somewhere else in the BA and moving up or a relative, plus a spouse’s income. They can stay then because they have made the investment. Staying in subsidized housing will by contrast mean they will never be able to afford anything else. Helping them get market rate housing and paying back in proportion when they sell ir refinance will help grow the program.

6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:11 am

The concept of teachers living in supplemented housing is not new. If you go back a hundred years or more, teachers often were provided housing as part of their compensation. The same is true of other service professions when a town, college or district deemed them vital. Even ministers have historically benefited from living in "parsonages." Families of the military servicemen have enjoyed such a perk for many decades.

In this day and area, actual housing might be less ideal as the aforementioned stipends. A tax-exempt housing stipend might be even more cost-effective and advantageous than actual physical housing if it is spent nearby. After all, teachers come and go from a district. If they're settled into a particular housing project dedicated to teachers in a district (or county), they would be forced to uproot once their employment changes.

I think that the stipend is an admirable option. Why not offer a stipend as part of a teaching compensation package that doesn't hit the teacher's family on tax day? This way, they aren't necessarily forced to relocate because of life changes.

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