S.F. must build teacher housing on school district property now

San Francisco Chronicle Masthead

March 16, 2017
By Lita Blanc and Susan Solomon

The housing crisis for San Francisco teachers and para-educators is bad and it’s getting worse. But that doesn’t mean that to address it we should upend years of affordable-housing policy that’s invaluable to the families we serve. That is why we are troubled by the latest proposal out of City Hall to revamp the inclusionary housing policy by replacing low-income housing units with middle-income housing — a proposal largely being done in our name.

This proposal pits low-income and middle-income workers and families who have been shut out of the real estate market against one another. Instead of expanding the pie for both groups, it takes away housing opportunities from many of the very families we serve. While there is consensus on the value of having teachers and para-educators living in the communities, it is important that we address this crisis without hurting the students and the families who rely on our public schools.

Largely because of the housing affordability crisis, next school year the San Francisco Unified School District is projecting that 1 out of every 7 teachers and other certificated employees will leave. Compounded by the statewide teacher shortage, the district is looking at the possibility of more than 150 classrooms without teachers and other essential positions going unfilled at the start of the school year. Many schools risk becoming destabilized and, without intervention, the quality of education will be compromised.

Fifty-four percent of the students in San Francisco’s public schools qualify for free or reduced priced lunches, the standard measure of poverty. As a union, we have fought for resources and policies to ensure that low-income families have a place in San Francisco along with middle-class and wealthy families. Now is not the time to shrink from our commitment by promoting policies that further displace our students.

Let’s find a sweet spot in our approach to affordable housing, and work to increase housing opportunities for educators and other middle-class workers as well. A better approach is to move forward with building teacher housing on school district property. We have met with the district and the mayor’s office for nearly two years to get such a project started. Now it is time to break ground without further delay.

Get involved

What: Supervisor Hillary Ronen has called a public hearing to discuss the crisis of educator housing.

Where: City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco

When: 4 p.m., March 22

Action: Come to the hearing or call your supervisor and ask him or her to work to get the process moving.

Lita Blanc is the president and Susan Solomon is the vice president of the United Educators of San Francisco.

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