The Keystone Policy Center, which analyzed wages and the number of affordable housing units at the school district level, showed that in a vacuum, raising wages won’t solve affordability issues.
“You can’t solve the housing problem just by raising teachers’ salaries,” said Van Schoales, senior policy director at the center. “You need to address this through housing policies.”
Solving the state’s housing crisis will require collaborative solutions from state and local authorities and community partners, according to the study.
He revealed that more than 80% of teachers who live along the Front Range and in mountain communities have the smallest share of homes that teachers can afford. But other areas of the state are much more affordable: the San Luis Valley, Pueblo and Huerfano and Las Animas counties, and the Eastern Plains.
(People can explore different regions of the state for home affordability on this interactive map.)
The study considers it “affordable” when a teacher’s monthly housing costs do not exceed 30% of their monthly salary.
Who will teach the students if the educators cannot afford accommodation?
Housing costs are a significant barrier to teacher recruitment and retention as Colorado faces a teacher shortage. The study indicates that over the past five years, 14-17% of teachers left their posts at the end of each school year. Additionally, 13% of all vacancies were filled last year through a ‘shortage mechanism’ such as hiring long-term replacements, retired educators and candidates who had emergency clearance. , according to the study.
The problem is accelerating. While 20% of all homes are affordable today, that’s down from 38% in 2007. Interest rates also play a big role in people’s ability to buy homes. Following the foreclosure crisis, 55% of all homes in 2015 — a statewide high — would have been affordable to the average teacher due to falling house prices and interest rates, according to the study.
The report notes that the Federal Reserve is actively raising interest rates to slow inflation, which will make buying a home even more out of reach for educators. Colorado has seen a more than 20% increase in home prices in the past year alone.
What are the salaries of teachers in Colorado?
Following the 2008 recession, Colorado teacher salaries stagnated around $50,000 until 2015-16, when salaries began to rise. Over the past seven years, average teacher salaries have increased by almost 25%; in 2021-21, the average teacher salary in Colorado was just over $60,000. However, the study indicated that the increase was mainly due to teachers in metropolitan districts.
“It’s incredibly misleading to compare, say, a teacher from Boulder to a teacher from Eagle County to a teacher from Manitou Springs,” said Schoales, who adds that there is also great variability in salaries and prices for housing within the regions.
Eighteen districts pay an average teacher salary at or above the state average. But the vast majority — 160 districts — pay less than that, most well below the statewide average teacher salary. The average district paid less than $48,000  to its average teacher in 2020-21, consistent with the statewide average salary from over a decade ago.
How Affordable Are Homes For Colorado Teachers?
In 2021, of nearly 1.9 million homes, less than 20% were priced at or below the district’s affordability threshold. Some parts of the state, however, are more affordable for teachers.
Out of 178 school districts, the average teacher in only 36 school districts lives in communities where 90% of housing units would be affordable for the average teacher. Unsurprisingly, the Front Range and Hill Stations community was the least affordable for teachers.
Teachers in 24 school districts live in communities where less than 10% of housing units are affordable for the average teacher. Just over a third of the West Slope housing was affordable for the average local teacher.
The study did not find a strong association between higher wages and better access to affordable housing in a particular neighborhood.
For example, the average teacher salary in the St. Vrain district, which includes several communities between Boulder and Denver, rose from $53,000 in 2015 to $65,000 in 2021-22. But while 46% of homes were affordable in 2015, less than 10% were in 2021, despite a 13% increase in housing supply over the same period, according to the report.
In Summit County, increasing teacher salaries from an average of $51,000 in 2007 to $67,000 in 2021 has helped make a few more units affordable, but barely. Less than 1% was affordable in 2007, but only 6.5% of housing is now.
“Affordability issues are still high and housing is largely unaffordable even with higher wages,” the report said.
In a small district bordering Nebraska at the northern end of Colorado – Plateau RE 5 – things are looking up for the district’s 17 teachers. In 2007, about 97% of housing was affordable with a salary of $35,000. And in 2021, with average salaries of $41,000, 76% were affordable.
Yet, the report notes, “this limited supply could contribute to a housing crisis, even though most of the supply is in fact affordable.”
In Manitou Springs, a district serving about 1,500 students west of Colorado Springs, wage increases cannot keep pace with rapidly rising house prices. While the average teacher salary has increased by 32% between 2015 and 2021, the percentage of affordable housing has fallen by more than half. The report says that in 2021, a teacher earning the average salary could afford to buy 17% of the houses in the district.
What can be done?
The report’s authors want the study and the interactive salary and housing map to start conversations among state and community partners about how to design pathways to homeownership for teachers and teachers. other middle-income essential workers like firefighters and nurses. Some ideas:
- Could communities help potential buyers with solutions other than down payment assistance – for example, addressing mortgage interest challenges?
- Can school districts leverage their land, property, or capital resources to increase the supply of affordable housing for teachers, as well as increase rental access and affordability? (The Roaring Fork District has created plenty of affordable housing for educators and is planning more.)
- Can school districts and communities take advantage of federal tax credits such as Social housing tax credit (LIHTC) to increase housing supply?
- Examine affordable housing programs and research efforts in other states. (The California School Boards Association and two major universities have developed a comprehensive overview of the potential for school district-owned land to be designed and developed for teachers and other employees. Additionally, Washington, D.C., has a program that offers school district employees government, including teachers, a zero interest deferred loan of up to $20,000 and a $10,000 matching grant for the purchase of a first home.)
- Explore how approaches to making housing affordable for teachers can be applied to other middle-income essential workers in the community.
More help could be on the way for teachers in the Eagle County School District.
“When you look at a junior teacher making $40,000 to $45,000 a year and the minimum rent is $2,400 a month, that’s just not viable,” said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, assistant superintendent. .
Currently, the district has head leases on several properties and sublets them to new teachers at more affordable rates. The district also initially covers first and last month’s rent and recovers these costs from the employee over time. But there is not enough affordable housing, especially family housing. She said nine out of 10 times veteran teachers, after accepting the job, turn down because they can’t find housing.
The district plans to build a 37-unit housing complex for educators, using a college as collateral for the loans. It will be rented at significantly below market rates – around $1,400 for one bedroom.
Since the district has many international teachers, it plans to give them a stipend next year to help them settle into the community.
“We’re doing a lot of trying to figure out how to make it easier to move into our community and make it easier to stay here,” Rewold-Thuon said.
Finally, Eagle County residents will consider a 2% tourist accommodation tax that would allow 90% of revenue collected to be directed towards affordable housing and childcare for the workforce. local. State lawmakers passed a bill this spring giving counties the freedom to request that of voters.
Colorado voters could see a measure on the ballot this fall that would dedicate a tenth of one percent of state income tax to affordable housing.
The owner of Lisbeth Redandes has extended her lease until October.
She is working this summer at a school in Eagle.
She wants the people who own the homes and rent them out to others to understand more deeply how critical the situation is for essential workers like teachers and nurses.
“I know in these times everyone needs to earn more money for retirement and all that, but at the same time it’s like, who’s going to take care of your kids or who’s going to take care of you when you will be older if not we can afford to live here?
Redandes hopes to be able to continue teaching in Gypsum until the end of his three-year visa.
She said she knew there were some great people out there who wouldn’t raise teachers’ rent, but she hadn’t found them yet.