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$300,000 program seeks to help SF teachers live in the city

October 25, 2016

Jill Tucker | October 25, 2016 | SFGate

Original article

San Francisco Unified School District teachers will gain special access to housing and anti-eviction services under a $300,000-a-year city and school district effort to help educators live in one of the most expensive markets in the country, officials said Tuesday.

The program will offer teachers legal guidance and representation if they face eviction, a service otherwise available only to low-income residents. The Eviction Defense Collaborative will waive the income requirements for teachers needing support.

The money allocated by the district and city will also pay for one-on-one counseling sessions and workshops specifically for teachers, to be held monthly at various locations across the city to help them find housing and down-payment assistance.

The program gives teachers — as well as aides, nurses, counselors and other educators — support through Homeownership SF, a partnership of nonprofit groups that addresses housing issues for residents.

Such support is critical because too many teachers are leaving the district after finding they can’t afford housing or after being evicted, said Lita Blanc, president of the United Educators of San Francisco labor union.

“It means the world to people that they can jump to the front of the line” for housing issues, she said. “Actually, there will be no line.”

District and city officials said they expect about 500 teachers to use the counseling services and legal help. In addition, the city provides up to $375,000 in down-payment assistance for teachers, a loan program that three teachers have used so far.

About 70 percent of San Francisco teachers live in the city, a number that has not changed significantly over the last several years. District officials, however, said that teachers are having more difficulty staying and that those who do sometimes live in chaotic and crowded conditions.

It’s getting harder to lure and keep good teachers, said interim Superintendent Myong Leigh. The district hired about 500 new teachers for the current school year to fill new positions or replace those who retired or resigned.

“We have a perfect storm of woefully inadequate (state) funding, a teacher shortage and high housing prices,” Leigh said.

The district will cover two-thirds of the $300,000 annual cost of the new program. The services are the first of many expected from a collaboration of city, district, union and nonprofit organizations that convened to study the housing needs of teachers.

An average one-bedroom apartment now costs $3,400 a month in San Francisco, which is more than 60 percent of the average teacher’s monthly salary, district officials said. The starting salary for a teacher in San Francisco is about $53,000.

“We cannot afford to stand by as teachers in the Bay Area struggle to make ends meet,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a statement.

“We have brought together the right partners and have put a long-term plan in place aimed to increase housing stability for San Francisco educators and help retain the talent we have and recruit the next generation of teachers.”