County project aims to alleviate local teacher housing problems

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal from Supervisor Joe Simitian last week aimed at developing teacher housing on county-owned land in Palo Alto.

The project is designed to reach beyond Palo Alto and include school districts in Los Altos and Mountain View, as well as the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

Construction is expected to take place on a 1.5-acre site at 231 Grant Ave. that could accommodate 60-120 units.

Simitian said the unanimous support of the board was encouraging and added that the county is “well-positioned to seek out potential partners.”

While the county will provide land for the housing project, funds must be raised to cover construction costs. Potential funding sources include school districts, local cities and nonprofit organizations, Simitian said.

Simitian, the son of a teacher, noted that many local teachers don’t live near the school where they teach, as his father did. He said teachers are now in the “missing middle” in the housing market – they cannot afford the home prices in Silicon Valley but do not qualify for low-income housing, either.

“That’s why we need to create affordable housing for teachers,” he said. “I hope this new model can be used again and again.”

School districts welcome support

Local school district officials reacted positively to the county’s offer of land for teacher housing.

Erin Green, the Los Altos School District’s director of student and staff services, said district officials haven’t received details of the project from the county, but they are excited about the opportunity, which will support local teachers by providing affordable housing options.

“This will help us to attract and retain our teachers,” she said.

Currently, the Los Altos School District partners with Los Altos Community Foundation in running an electronic bulletin board that connects newly hired and existing teachers with local residents with housing units to rent.

Green said the district has had “great success” with the rental assistance program.

The district also works with Landed, a company founded in 2015 that promotes affordable housing, to offer teachers financial aid for home purchases.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District has connected teachers with Landed as well, according to Superintendent Jeff Harding.

“Our school district recruits and retains excellent teachers, and supports them with technology in the classroom, ongoing professional support and training, and top salaries and benefits,” Harding said. “Even with these advantages, our district has experienced measurable attrition of great teachers due to prohibitive local housing costs. As the cost of housing continues to rise, so does our loss of talented teachers.”

While welcoming the county’s new teacher housing project, Harding said the district encourages “further investigation of ways to create affordable local housing to help public schools keep the best and brightest teachers in our local classrooms and community.”

Meanwhile, Foothill-De Anza Community College District Chancellor Judy Miner expressed strong support for the new teacher housing project. She sent a letter to the board of supervisors, stating that the district is “extremely interested in exploring partnership opportunities for creating affordable workforce housing on this site.”

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