Local school districts to build housing for educators

The San Diego Student Safety, Health and School Repair Measure, known as Measure U, was passed in November, making San Diego Unified School District the first district in San Diego to set aside bond money to acquire and construct employee housing.

Placed on the November ballot by the SDUSD Board of Education, Measure U would allow SDUSD to use bonds, totaling $3.2 billion, to improve school facilities and pursue improvement projects across some 200 district-owned educational facilities. SDUSD has placed three other similar bond measures on the ballot since 2008, the most recent being Measure YY. What sets Measure U apart from previous measures is the inclusion of employee housing in its project list, as it sets aside more than $200 million of the total bond money to be spent on employee housing.

“The world has changed from previous bond measures,” Samer Naji, communication supervisor for the SDUSD Facilities Planning and Construction department, said. “San Diego is just unaffordable, and we’re having a hard time hiring staff.”

Teachers within SDUSD make a starting salary of $50,744 yearly, the average of teachers in the district making closer to $88,000. Conversely, a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego County has an average rent of $2,200, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, forcing newer teachers to spend more than half of their monthly salary on housing.

“We asked [the voters], ‘in addition to renovating our schools, do you also support affordable housing for teachers and voters?’” Naji said. “And the voters again said ‘yes.’”

That said, some have pointed out that bond money would be better spent directly on in-classroom improvements or teacher salaries. However, the use of the bond money is restricted to physical improvements to schools.

“So, the money couldn’t be used to hire a teacher… bring in extra yard duty or hire a crossing guard,” Naji said.

Interest in affordable housing opportunities has been shown by SDUSD employees, according to Naji.

While SDUHSD has not said whether they intend to pursue a similar housing initiative to SDUSD, some district employees are also interested.

“[After hearing of Measure U], I thought, ‘wow, how awesome,’ especially for a new teacher who is at the bottom of the pay scale, [who] maybe does not have their own house yet,” TPHS counselor Toni Zurcher, who moved from the San Diego area to Ramona to buy more land for less, said.

In a public comment during a Jan. 31 SDUHSD board meeting, community member Carlos Magana read aloud a statement from a California School Employees Association member.

“I know I will never own a home because this is the career I have chosen… I just want to make it through a month without trying to figure out if I can pay all of my bills,” Magana said. “As one of the highest-paid classified staff members on the school site, I shouldn’t be struggling as much as I am.”

As of now, it is probable the affordable housing development will be located at the old SDUSD headquarters at 4100 Normal St, Naji said. However, the date construction will begin and be completed, the contents of development and the general details of how housing will be granted or paid are all currently unannounced as SDUSD conducts preliminary conversations with community stakeholders.

Read on Issuu.

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