Thursday, December 08, 2022

Your child's low income teacher

I hear so much vitriol spewed against building low income housing, predicting all sorts of negative outcomes. Crime! Blight! Traffic! Ghettoization! Gentrification! 

Your children's teachers are listening. I've been advised to use color pictures to spice up the tables of data. So I pulled this photo off the website of Washington Elementary School, the ES with the highest concentration of Title I students in RBUSD. 

UCLA Professor John Rogers told the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles County at one of our meetings that the 10th percentile (in earnings) public school teacher in California needs to pay an astronomical portion of their income in rent if they wanted to live in a 1 bedroom apartment in the county where they teach. 

Insert horror face emoji. 

I looked up some statistics for Los Angeles and Redondo Beach and he is horrifyingly correct. 

My school district's budget page contains the most recent budget for 2022-2023

Here's their list of certificated teachers (doesn't include non-certified teachers' aides). There are 463.8 Full-time Equivalent certificated teachers. Some work part-time schedules. 

Here's the salary schedule for each classification and step (years of experience). The 10th percentile teacher is an early career elementary school teacher, earning in the low $60,000s, possibly still paying off student loans for a bachelors plus 1 year of grad school. 

That sounds like a pretty good salary, right? Consider the 2022 HUD Income Limits for California. Scroll down to Los Angeles County. Each column represents limits for # of people in the household. So a single teacher would be in column 1, and fit in the low income category (below $66,750).

That young, energetic teacher that your child loves so much? They are the very people you are excluding when you block low income housing. 

Qualifying for low income housing is much easier than securing it. 

Consider that Redondo Beach's Section 8 program has 4,260 people on the wait list as of September 2022. It was last opened to the public (briefly) in 2015. (7 years ago!)

  • 441 households enrolled in the city’s Section 8 program
  • 117 families
  • 324 seniors/disabled

In the quarterly briefing

  • 6 people got new contracts for housing+vouchers
  • 4 people were permanently off the program (died, moved away, earned too much)
  • 119 households signed contract renewals

Demand for housing assistance is so high, RB's Section 8 program is limited to only Very Low Incomes (below $41,700); Low Income households like teachers do not qualify. 

Some private landlords of new properties have to set aside a certain number of homes at Below Market Rate (BMR) in a negotiation with cities referred to as Mixed-Income Cross Subsidies (typically 10-20% set aside as BMR). They typically also prioritize public sector employees working in the city. That's helpful for attracting and retaining teachers who have a choice of school districts to work in. 

You have to build homes in order to have BMR units. Because Redondo Beach builds so few homes, and approves almost exclusively townhomes (no apartment buildings), they have produced a total of 2 subsidized units in the last decade according to one study I read. 

That leaves Redondo Beach school teachers--and most workers--out in the open market. 

Someone earning $60,000/yr can afford 30% for rent, about $1,500/month. says that there are no apartments for rent in RB below $1,501/mo. Only 5% of them are below $2,000/mo. The average apartment is 825 sq ft and rents for $2,939. 

HUD publishes Small Area Fair Market Rents by zip code for Los Angeles County. They are set to approximate a 40th percentile rent in a zip code--typically older, no-frills housing. The High School is in 90277, but inland 90278 is slightly cheaper.  The columns are for studios, 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom homes. 

If our benchmark young elementary school teacher rented a studio in 90278, they would pay 39% of their gross $5,000/mo salary to rent a shabby studio for $1,940/mo--if they could find one. They would then join the ~80% of Los Angeles County renters that are rent-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on rent. 

If they didn't want to be rent-burdened, say if they also need to eat after paying off student loans, they could get a studio apartment in Inglewood, or a 1 bedroom apartment in Lennox. But, then, they would need to get a car and factor in car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance. Those costs could easily run $500-$750/month, so teachers might be better off with a more expensive apartment near work that they can bike to. 

Teachers are very smart. They are listening. They are trained to process, analyze, and interpret information. What take-away message do you want them to hear? 

Do you want to be like Daly City, which built an apartment complex that can house 25% of their school district's staff

Or do you want to be like San Francisco, who started planning at the same time, and is still debating equity while Daly City teachers have already moved into new homes?

Addendum 16 Dec 2022

Young school teachers are likely to be in an income-based student loan repayment program that caps their student loan payments at 10% of their discretionary income. 

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