Rising housing costs and staffing shortages have spurred school districts across the country, including many in Texas, to offer housing benefits to school employees.
Some districts are building their own housing complexes on district land to rent to teachers and school employees at below-market rates. Other districts are offering staff affordable rent prices in partnership with local area apartment complexes. Providing housing stipends is another incentive being used by districts.
Six percent of district leaders surveyed this fall by EdWeek Research Center said they provide teacher housing or a housing supplement. Two percent reported introducing or improving housing benefits in the past two years in response to staffing challenges. Anecdotally, the district leaders report there’s a high demand from staff for housing incentives.
A separate EdWeek Research Center survey conducted in July 2022 found that 11 percent of teachers said free or subsidized housing would make them more likely to stay in the teaching profession.
Housing is one of the primary financial concerns for teachers and other school employees. Teachers need affordable housing, as do employees who are typically compensated less than teachers and are more likely to live within the immediate community in which they work (e.g., clerical staff, educational aides, custodians, cafeteria workers).
Districts should take time to strategically think about developing a plan to provide housing or housing assistance. Surveying staff to determine the amount of interest, gathering data on where employees currently reside, and studying the current local real estate market are good starting points.
Partnering with the county agencies, city government, or locally established housing developments can offset some of the costs. It’s also important to consider the implementation timeline as it’s typically a seven-year process from exploring a housing project to educators moving into the housing units. Thinking through the logistics of providing housing and housing benefits can clarify what is needed, what can reasonable be offered, and what is sustainable.
Not everyone is supportive of district-run housing for educators. The United Educators for Housing and Literacy, a California-based nonprofit, advocates districts offer housing stipends modeled after the military’s basic allowance for housing instead of housing units.
There are quite a few Texas school districts providing housing or subsidizing housing to attract and retain teachers and other school employees. A few examples include:
- Austin ISD is repurposing one of its campuses into a 500-unit housing complex for local educators to combat the rising cost of housing in the city. District officials hope the planned housing complex will help retention and recruitment of teachers and school staff.
- Pflugerville ISD voters approved almost $44 million in bond funding for the purchase of land and construction of affordable housing for teachers and staff. The district also offers employee housing discounts at selected apartment complexes.
- Round Rock ISD approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Texas Workforce Housing Foundation to provide staff with affordable rent prices at four apartment complexes. The plan provides discounted rent based on income level.
- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD began offering teachers affordable housing in 2016, and due to the popularity and need, the district is now building its own apartment complex. Offering affordable housing in a rural school district has helped teacher recruitment significantly. The district reported having all elementary positions filled with certified teachers this school year.
- Ector County ISD has a three-year contract with a property management company for 100 apartments available to teachers at a discounted rate that also waives any deposits. The district reports being able to hire teachers from outside the area that otherwise may not have been able to find a place to live in the area.
- Midland ISD offers subsidized housing with a combination of apartments and modular homes. Offering housing to international teachers has become a successful recruitment tool.
- Crockett County CCSD maintains 43 housing units to provide housing in a rural area with few housing options for new staff.
- Fort Stockton ISD purchased a renovated 19-room motel that can be used as transitional or permanent housing for teachers.
Securing affordable housing is a challenge for many Texas school employees but even more so now with rising costs. Providing housing benefits is proving to be a very successful tool for districts in recruiting top talent and increasing teacher and school employee retention.
Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.
Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.
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