Mountain View superintendent pioneers new form of affordable teacher housing

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is committed to building a better Bay Area. It means we look at the big issues and what's being done about them. High housing costs, particularly in Silicon Valley, are a big problem for many people who can't afford to live where they work.

The South Bay tops Zillow's listings for the highest home values and highest rent in the entire country. The median home price in Los Altos Hills is close to $5 million. It's more than $3 million in Palo Alto and close to $2 million in Mountain View. Median rent there has almost doubled in the past 10 years. Most people simply can't afford that, including many teachers.

For the first time, ABC7 News spoke with a Mountain View superintendent who's pioneering ways to house his employees, who can't afford to live in the school district.

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"I share my two bedroom apartment with my daughter, my son-in-law and my two grandchildren," said Nancy Rodriguez, an administrative assistant for the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Because of her family's tight living quarters in Sunnyvale, Rodriguez is moving her family to Hollister, where she can afford a house. But it puts her 60 miles away from work. Rodriguez plans on carpooling with a co-worker, who also lives in Hollister.

"We're figuring probably an hour and a half in the morning and and hour 45 going back home," she said.

Zoe Sharp and Natalie LaRosa are elementary school teachers in the same school district. They're also roommates, along with three other people, who all share a rental house in Cupertino.

"Living with four other people, though it's fun, I think I'm outgrowing it," said LaRosa.

But at the moment, her roommate-filled rental house is her only option.

"I don't think I could afford, on my salary, to live in a one bedroom and I wouldn't be saving any money whatsoever if I did that," she said. "

District superintendent Ayinde Rudolph is trying to change that.

"This is the first time the school district has partnered with a developer to build housing," he said.

A developer already bought an apartment complex on Middlefield Road, around the corner from the school district office. The current apartments will be torn down and rebuilt.

Rudolph is proposing the district lease 144 units of affordable housing in the complex for school teachers and employees. The 55-year ground lease will cost the district $56 million, which Rudolph says they will likely pay for with a loan, which he says rent from the units will eventually cover.

"It's budget neutral," said Rudolph.

According to the City of Mountain View planning department, in 2018 the average rent for a one bedroom apartment was $2,500. At the proposed school district apartments, a one bedroom would cost a teacher, with a starting salary of $64,000, about $1,500 month, which is a $1,000 per month savings.

"I'm excited about it for us because it creates a solution that can be replicated across the state. But really, it creates a solution that retains teachers for our community to make sure that we have top-notch schools," said Rudolph

The school board will vote to approve the project on Thursday and Mountain View City Council will vote on the project in April. If approved, Rudolph says construction would likely begin in 2021.

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