Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

AXIOS Austin reports, "in an effort to recruit and retain teachers amid the city's rising cost of living, Austin ISD is trying something new: building housing.

  • It's part of a national trend of school districts working to help chronically underpaid teachers afford to live where they teach.

Driving the news: Within 12 months, the district plans to choose developers, who will construct and manage two residential complexes with 600 units on unused district land.

  • It plans to lease the former Ana Ferrales Coy Facility and former Rosedale Elementary School to developers who will be able to leverage its property tax-free status to keep rents affordable, Austin ISD director of real estate Jeremy Striffler tells Axios.
  • They'll be pre-marketed to AISD employees who will qualify based on a range of median family incomes, he said.

Why it matters: According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, the average Austin teacher must spend nearly half of their salary per month to afford the city's median home.

  • In a district survey earlier this year, Striffler said 70% of employees reported spending more than 30% of their annual income on housing, which classifies them as "cost burdened."

The big picture: The district is already facing a $50 million deficit to fund its recent 7% teacher pay raise and $4 hourly employee wage increase. But it can't raise pay more until lawmakers change the state's student funding formula — which they haven't done since 2019.

  • So Austin has been left to think, "What else can we do?" Striffler said. "It's not in lieu of increasing compensation, it's in parallel."

Zoom in: Whether existing buildings are razed or converted will be up to developer proposals, he said. But each selection will include community engagement on the designs.

Plus: The district has chosen a developer to convert the former Pease Elementary site downtown into a low-cost child care center to accommodate 120 of employees' children by next fall.

  • It has also worked to facilitate discounts from landlords across the city for its staff and published other housing and commuting resources.

Of note: The raises seem to have had an effect. The district entered the year at a 95% staffing rate — up from 90% last year, its Talent Strategy Office tells Axios.

  • District officials also attribute the staffing levels to starting recruitment earlier, outreach for student teachers and the district's housing and child care benefits.

The bottom line: "I see this as good stewardship of the land that we own," Striffler said.

  • The district is one of the largest landowners in Austin, but some of it is underutilized, he said.
  • "We could sell it off and just take a check … but that's not an investment in the community or in our talent.""

Source: AXIOS Austin

Written by: Emma Hurt

Published: August 16, 2023

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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