Teachers seeking solutions to San Francisco's affordable housing crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The affordability crisis has hit teachers especially hard. You've heard their stories about not being able to stay in San Francisco. The city, the school district and even teachers and their union admit they did not see the housing crisis coming and now everyone is playing catch up.

"We can't afford a home here, we're in a one bedroom apartment," said Min Im, a teacher who shares that one bedroom apartment with her husband and two children. Like many teachers in San Francisco moving to a larger home is not economically possible.

"People are leaving all the time. I'm considering moving out of the city right now to get something more affordable," she said candidly.

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The average teacher salary in San Francisco after implementing proposition G is $82,000 a year. It's not uncommon for them to spend 50 or even 75 percent of their salary on rent.

"In New York City, they built whole tall high-rises for teachers to live in, 40 or 50 years ago," said former School Board Member Jill Wynns.

San Francisco is just now responding to that need.

The old Francis Scott Key Annex in the Sunset District will soon be torn down to make way for the the first housing development exclusively for teachers and school district employees. When completed it will be a 130-unit-building. The school district is putting up the land and the city, the funds.

Here's what they'll go for:

A studio costs $800, a one bedroom is in the $1,000 range, two bedrooms between $1,500 and $1,700 and a three bedroom costs $3,300 a month.

These prices are well below the current market rates, according to Kate Hartely who is with the mayor's office of housing and community development.

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"A two bedroom in San Francisco averages $4,500 a month, a three-bedroom is hard to find, it's usually between $5,000 and $6,000 a month. These kinds of prices will make a difference for our teachers," explained Hartely.

But the units won't be available until 2022.

City politics is one reason why teachers have been left behind. Even the teachers themselves, 15 years ago, had not warmed up to the idea of living in close proximity to other teachers. Take Dianne Feinstein Elementary in the Sunset District constructed in 2005.

There were plans to build a underground parking garage and a 45 unit building for teachers in the back of the school, an innovative idea.

"So during the day when the teachers who lived there went to work, the teachers who taught there would be able to use the parking garage, we thought that was great," Wynns said.

Even the Federal Government through HUD was enthusiastic and ready to help. But the community and then supervisor Leland Yee vehemently opposed it.

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"They said, 'oh it's a public housing project, never let HUD get involved, it will be a slum,'" said Wynns who was on the school board back then.

The community later said it made a mistake, and the teachers got nothing.

Still, today there are other possibilities. A 2016 bill authored by then State Senator Mark Leno now allows districts to use surplus land to build housing, something they couldn't do before.

"To some extent we are taking it one building at a time, especially for this first building to make sure that we do it right and that we take the lessons learned for this project before we contemplate further projects," said Daniel Menezes, Chief Human Resources Officer for the school district.

The hope now is that the teachers will stick around long enough to see the district and the city do the right thing.

"We have to address this really quickly, faster, waiting is not the solution," said Im.

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