School districts across California received good news in September 2016 when Governor Brown signed into law SB-1413 “School Districts (Employee Housing).” Authored by State Senator Mark Leno, SB-1413 offers an innovative opportunity to ease a debilitating problem. SB-1413 bypasses many of the restrictive development regulations and authorizes school districts to establish and implement creative housing options for recruitment and retention purposes. What does this mean for school districts and how does it address the need for affordable housing? Find out more below:
It Recognizes the Impact of the Housing Crisis on Schools
In most populous counties, only 17% of homes are affordable on the average teacher salary; this is down from 30% in 2012 according to a recent Redfin study. This bill is “necessary in order to provide affordable housing opportunities to teachers and other school district employees […] and the stability of housing for school employees is critical to the overall success and stability of each school in California.” Recruitment and retention are directly impacted by housing costs for many districts – in the summer of 2015 San Francisco alone had to recruit, hire, and train 700 new teachers with housing costs listed as a primary reason for teachers leaving the district. SB-1413 is a major step forward to strengthening our state by keeping our teachers and district staff in the communities where they work.
It Provides an Answer for School Districts
The purpose of the bill is to “facilitate the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable rental housing for teachers and school district employees.” It authorizes school districts statewide to lease property owned by the district for the development of employee housing (leases for the development of housing on district sites typically run for 66 years). The bill permits school districts and developers in receipt of local or state funds designated for affordable rental housing to restrict occupancy to teachers and employees. In this way, Districts can lease their property for the development of workforce housing and use government low-income housing tax credits without violating federal Fair Housing laws.
It Applies to All Employees
While the bill targets public school teachers, it applies to all district employees. District administrative staff, classified employees and other staff are also essential to providing high quality education in the state and face many of these same housing concerns. Since SB-1413 allows districts to direct housing to employees that is financed in part by tax credits, it is important for districts to understand the income requirements for those funds and consider a wide variety of employees in order to meet the average low to moderate income requirements associated with affordable housing tax credits.
School districts interested in leasing their land to develop workforce housing and address this crisis should begin with stakeholder engagement with their Board, employees and community. Districts should evaluate their real estate assets to determine if they have a site suited for residential development for their employees and if the surplus property process will be required. While SB-1413 won’t solve the affordable housing crisis for school employees, it is an important first step.
Learn more about how school districts can develop workforce housing through DCG’s “The Workforce Housing Advantage” Guide.