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HOUSING A VOICE: TOOLKIT FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS

Overview:  For many teachers, it is very difficult finding an affordable place to live near their schools, where they work and the same applies for students who are living on a limited income or budget.  Nationwide, districts are attempting to implement affordable housing in hopes to the retain teachers within their schools as housing costs rise and eliminate housing insecurity for students.  Affordable housing availability for both students and teachers hosts a wide variety benefits.   Educational interventions are being tried in accordance with local housing authorities, and some districts are even tying housing vouchers to specific struggling schools—in the hopes that such requirements will help teachers to afford within the communities they work, reduce student turnover and increase school performance.

Talking Points on Affordable Housing for Students and Teachers

Affordable Housing Helps School Districts Retain Teachers

Across the country, districts building affordable homes for teachers hope to better retain and recruit staff as local housing costs rise and salaries remain stagnant.  Funding comes from different sources as some districts get financial assistance from local governments, while others receive donations or issue bonds.  Some teacher advocates have come forward to address that these housing options do not address the larger problem of low salaries and high living costs.  Despite the ongoing quest for top-notch teachers in every school district, less attention is paid to the relationship between educators and their housing needs. Teachers’ instructional capacities are often impacted by conditions they face outside the classroom, such as high rents, or unsafe housing.  Nevertheless, from San Francisco, to West Virginia, to Philadelphia, the efforts to attract teachers through subsidized housing are growing more pronounced.   These cities do want to help recruit and retain educators who actually live in the communities in which they serve and to do so unionists and policy makers should considering the intersections between housing and teaching.

Eliminate Housing Insecurity for Students

Students are disproportionately at risk for housing insecurity.  Students often lack a rental history, someone to act as a guarantor, or the savings for a security deposit.  Housing insecurity, often in tandem with related issues such as food insecurity, acts as a barrier for student success.   A great deal of evidence has shown how homelessness and housing insecurity can negatively affect a student’s behavior, which creates problems not only for them but for their classmates and teachers as well.  Low-income students’ unmet needs often induce them to enroll part time, live off campus, and work long hours at jobs.  Unmet financial need can also mean that students are unable to afford necessary supplies for college, such as books or computers, and lead students to drop out.  Students’ and their parents’ concerns about the prospect of students leaving home for college, in addition to financial limitations, particularly affect first-generation students’ decisions about college-going and housing.  Hosts of educational interventions are being tried in conjunction with local housing authorities, and some cities are even tying housing vouchers to specific struggling schools—in the hopes that such requirements will reduce student turnover and increase school performance.

Homelessness amongst Students

Over one million young people in the United States currently face homelessness, and many do not have an adult in the picture to provide guidance or assistance when it comes time to think about higher education. The federal government defines these unaccompanied homeless youth as individuals who do not have “fixed, regular and adequate” housing and who are “not in the physical custody of a parent or adult.”  Many of these youth aspire to attend college, yet lack the support and awareness of resources needed to move their dreams into reality.   At least 56,000 college students are homeless and that number is likely underestimated.  While reasons for being homeless are varied and every situation is unique, researchers have identified three main reasons for homelessness among potential college students: parental job loss, lack of affordable housing and family or parental conflicts.  Focusing on a lack of affordable housing in recent years, the gap between minimum wage and cost of housing has grown even more expansive, while federal housing subsidies have decreased.  Objectively, a full-time minimum wage employee cannot afford the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. State governments, nonprofits, and institutions have responded to student housing needs with innovative programs and policies.  Federal homelessness programs do not specifically focus on homeless college students; however, recent legislation has improved homeless students’ access to financial aid and campus supports.

Housing Assistance for Students

There are a number of programs include including federal assistance, students can utilize to afford and find housing.  Newer programs suggest that aligning housing, educational supports, and other benefits could best serve at-risk students and provide necessary affordable and adequate housing.  However, there are restrictions in place, which govern students’ eligibility for federal housing assistance programs. Notably, a student may receive Section 8,  a widely recognized housing assistance program, only while living separately from his or her parents if both the student and the student’s parents are income eligible. In addition to Section 8, there is housing assistance programs prospectively open to students. Such programs include HOME Investment Partnerships Program, where students who qualify for Section 8 assistance can occupy HOME-assisted rental units.  Public Housing allows for students can live in public housing if they meet the income restrictions.  States providing Chafee funding for students aging out of foster care can spend up to 30 percent of their funds from the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to help young people aging out of foster care address their housing needs.

Teacher Housing Programs

Grants and housing purchase assistance programs exist to help teachers afford to live in or near communities where they work. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spearheads a program to make home ownership affordable for more teachers at the state and county levels.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees the Good Neighbor Next Door program, a national initiative that is available to K-12 teachers.  When a home with a Federal Housing Administration loan is foreclosed on, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development takes it over and resells it.  As cities, designate certain areas needing economic growth and revitalization, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets aside some of these homes for the Good Neighbor program.  Eligible participants can then buy the homes at 50 percent of the home’s fair market price.

Strategies

1) Share your own story.  Talking from your own personal experience is powerful.

2) Educate the public about the realities of the risks they fear.  Explain the importance of providing affordable housing for both students and teachers direct their attention to the relationship between housing instability and student achievement and prosperity for teachers.

3) Market the proposal in a more attractive manner.  Present a case for affordable housing that proves its value to the community, to our education system and the success it would allow students and teachers alike.  Share evidence showing the lack of negative externalities. 

Resources

Affordable Housing (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Affordable Rental Housing Action (Rental HousingAction.org)

Are Most College Students Eligible For Section 8 Housing?  (Best Value Schools)

Barriers to Success: Housing Insecurity for U.S. College Students (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Boom in district-built housing slows teacher turnover (District Administration)

Can Affordable Housing Help Retain Teachers?  (The American Prospect LongForm)

Does It Make Sense to Offer Housing Perks for Teachers? (Education Week)

Good Neighbor Next Door (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Guide to Affordable Student Housing (AffordableColleges.org)

High-rent school districts build homes for teachers (USA Today)

HOME Investment Partnerships Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Homeless Youth and Higher Education (Affordable Colleges Online)

Housing Assistance for Youth Who Have Aged Out of Foster Care: The Role of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Office of the Assisted Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)

Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Hud Public Housing Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Hunger And Homelessness Are Widespread Among College Students Study Finds) (National Public Radio)

Questions and Answers on the Eligibility of Students for Assisted Housing Under the Multifamily Housing Project-based Section 8 Program  (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)  

Subsidized Housing May Help School Districts Retain Teachers (National Public Radio)

Teach for America

“Students and Teachers” Success Stories

Amelia Leon, Graphic Designer, The Lace Mill

Dorms and Domicile

There’s no Place Like Home

Videographer-Monastic Student-Artist finds blessing in home, continues on path to success (Lace Mill resident-artist James Martin)

 

 

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