Teacher Housing Crisis:

Have We Reached a Breaking Point?

Where They Live:


Average Distance from M-A


live within M-A's residency zone


live within SUHSD's residency zone
35 - 60
average commute range

The Money Question


median sale price for 2 bedrooms**


down payment on a $1.6 million home**


average monthly rent for 2 bedrooms**


corresponding average yearly rent**


SUHSD starting salary (post tax)***

How the Crisis is Affecting Teachers:

comments from a Feb. 13 teacher town hall

I was tight for money. I decided that living paycheck to paycheck—having two degrees—didn’t feel great.
So I started taking up some odd jobs. I started working for my landlord. Next thing you know, I am fixing toilets and doing landscaping... I [drive for] Uber. I’ve [picked up my former students] not once but three times. In English, we call this low ethos for becoming a teacher — my students don’t need any convincing after that... Again, nothing shameful about it. But I am tired. I’ve come to understand that if your parents didn’t pay for your college education, if you didn’t get here 15 years ago, if you don’t have a spouse [with a lucrative career], you’re out of luck as far as doing anything but renting.

We have lost several teachers over these last couple of years because of the cost of housing. They couldn’t afford it. They had permanent status in our school district. They left. They went to Colorado, Southern California, and to Texas. The current teachers who couldn’t be here today are commuting from Antioch, Discovery Bay, and Modesto every single day. They are getting rundown and eventually they are going to give up. These are extremely dedicated teachers—they’re missing out on time with their families
in order to service all of the students here.

I’ve noticed that the way we [teachers] are living is fundamentally different. We have changed our living styles. More people are living within the homes. Dining rooms aren’t dining rooms— they’re potential bedrooms. Living rooms aren’t living rooms—they’re potential bedrooms. The back of the garage with a bit of sheet rock is a potential bedroom too.

A few years ago, I was living in San Leandro. I had a roommate and, with my eldest daughter—we shared a room—commuted from San Leandro to Menlo Park. In the beginning, the commute wasn’t that bad—it was 35 minutes. So it was manageable; it was a far distance but doable. But year after year, the traffic increased so our commute got upwards of an hour and 15 minutes, and that was terrible for our family. I know my daughter had to eat on the run—I was no longer cooking breakfast for her in the morning. So in a day’s time, that was basically three hours on the road for us.

The Data

Organizations Leading the Charge:

A startup, Landed seeks to help teachers make down payments on homes closer to their respective schools. Recognizing the barrier that high down payments can pose to teacher homeownership, Landed promises to pay half of the required twenty percent down payment for teachers. The company is in part funded by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and has a special focus on Sequoia Union High School District teachers. Landed has already helped eleven SUHSD staff members purchase homes to date and will continue to host homebuying workshops.

Founded three years ago, Support Teacher Housing is hosting teacher town halls to raise awareness for the housing crisis. The organization seeks to develop housing for the “missing middle,” referring to workers who make too much to be considered for traditional affordable housing models but who don’t earn enough to afford homes. The organization promotes a model wherein communities convert underutilized land into moderate-income housing, thus allowing teachers to eventually save up for down payments. So far, the organization has successfully lobbied the Palo Alto and Los Altos city councils to set aside funding and land for teacher housing.

Alongside Support Teacher Housing, Bay Area Forward is hosting teacher town halls in an attempt to build a coalition of educators, local officials, and community members devoted to solving the teacher housing crisis. At these town halls, teachers share stories of their struggles with the housing market. The meetings also serve as a platforms for community members—some elected, some parents, and some from the private sector—to brainstorm potential solutions.

the fine print:

* Data for this story is based on interviews with 80 Menlo-Atherton teachers.

** Rent and sale statistics based on San Mateo County Data via Zillow and MLS

*** Figure based on $64,800 starting salary for SUHSD teachers and accounting for typical state and federal taxes


This story was first published in The Mark.

Article by Nate Viotti