AUSTIN, Texas — Teachers are crucial to a community but, right now, many Austin ISD teachers cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.
“It’s so huge for our teachers to be able to live in the communities they serve. It helps them better understand the experiences of their students,” said Jeremy Striffler, the Austin ISD director of real estate. “We have a great diverse student population here and, so, being able to be part of the communities, rather than having to drive in 45 minutes or an hour-plus to get to the schools where they work at.”
Striffler said with the current shortage of teachers and the rising cost of living in Austin, the district is looking to create affordable housing for teachers because there are not many options for them.
“We believe we're going to have to build that with partners because, right now, it's not as easily accessible,” said Striffler.
The district was first looking to get $50 million through a bond this November to create 500 to 1,000 housing units for teachers. But, now, they are planning to create the housing through other funding and partnerships with for-profit or nonprofit developers.
“While the bond would have been one great way to achieve that, we have multiple opportunities to do it,” said Striffler. “And so, that's where our focus is now going forward.”
Striffler said teachers fall in a middle area, where they make too much money to qualify for City of Austin affordable housing but not enough money to afford many other housing options.
“We really need to identify opportunities for them in terms of housing that gives them priority,” said Striffler.
They will build the housing on land they own, and already have some locations they are planning for, including the former Rosedale campus and the Coy site.
They plan to hold meetings in the coming months to gauge the community and decide details, like if the units will be rented or owned and if they will be apartments or single-family homes.
They are also looking at the Brooke, Metz and Sims campuses for possible projects, but say these are just the first steps.
“We think it's important to be thinking big about housing, and we're excited to leverage the land that we have to do that,” said Striffler.
The housing will not only be available for teachers but they are also looking to allow other staff and Austin ISD families to apply. All of these details will be discussed further this fall.
The board of trustees on Thursday ultimately approved a motion to call for the bond election this fall.
"This has been a massive community effort and it shows," said Trustee Lynn Boswell. "I want to thank everybody ahead of time for work that is to come. We love our schools, our students, our teachers and this is a way to really take action and do all we can to give them what they deserve."
"We all win when we are a more equitable society, and this bond promises more investment in Title 1 schools than has ever been proposed," added President Geronimo Rodriguez. "Every family also benefits from this bond creating new pathways for kids from communities who have historically missed out."
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