Oakland is home to some of the most expensive apartments in California. Still, a pilot program that provides housing support to first- or second-year educators and student teachers has allowed less financially-capable individuals to rent in the city.
Malik Stead has a $15,000 school-year stipend and is a student-teacher at Roosevelt Middle School. The educator was able to share a luxurious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Oakland Hills, paying only $350 per month for his half of the rent.
On Monday, city and district officials announced the program, which allowed Stead to circumvent the typically $1,500 per month rent of the area. The project would initially be given out to only 12 of the district’s 3,100 teachers this year.
The program is only one of several within the region that aim to assist teachers with affording apartments in the city. The model was created as a result of the sharply increasing prices of rent in the area, which made it challenging for educators to find affordable housing they could keep for an extended period.
The Oakland pilot is a program that does not use any taxpayer funding and aims to attract more teachers to work in the city. City and district officials said it focuses on trying to get people of color and those who specialize in hard-to-fill areas, such as special education, math, and science, to come work in the area.
However, the project’s small size is unlikely to cause any significant changes to the region where school districts are finding it difficult to employ new teachers due to financial difficulties as older educators slowly retire. For years, many attempts to construct teacher housing, such as in San Francisco, have been left as discussions, with nothing concrete being built.
Housing experts said that thousands of teachers are most likely in need of more affordable housing in the area, compared to the pilot’s dozen sample. However, the project is a step in the right direction, they said. African American Stead, who is working on getting his teaching credential in science, said, “This pilot made it very economically feasible for me to teach in Oakland.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the Bay Area had very expensive apartments and that teachers in the region were not paid enough to sustain their rents comfortably, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The nonprofit publication, EdSource, which focuses on education, observed that the Bay Area has the largest difference between the salaries of teachers and the costs of rental housing in the entire state of California.
Schaaf said, “This teacher affordability pilot is addressing housing insecurity, it’s addressing the quality of teachers for our children. It’s addressing the issue of teacher attraction and retention.”
The city chose six student-teachers, who are all working on obtaining certifications, towards calling the complex their home. Each of the educators pays significantly less to live in Oakland with the help of the pilot program.
The superintendent of Oakland Unified Schools, Kyla Johnson-Trammell, said that the program represented equity being operationalized. She added officials have finally realized the root of what they needed to do to keep teachers long-term and how to attract new teachers to the city.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing most states to see a massive drop in rental costs, Zumper found that the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland was at $2,020. The cost would take approximately half of a first-year OUSD teacher’s monthly salary.
Additionally, the city is also experimenting with what is called a “guaranteed income stipend” for new teachers who have successfully completed their residency. The program would give anywhere between $500 and $1,500 every month that teachers could use on rent to support them financially, ABC7 News reported.