LAUSD Is Building Housing For Its Staff Because The Rent Is Too Damn High
Back in 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District decided that it was going to build low-income housing for district employees who couldn't afford to live close to where they work. A sizable problem for LAUSD is the fact that lots of its employees, school staff and teachers alike, are forced into harrowingly long commutes that eventually become too arduous for them to remain district employees. Turnover is high, and challenges the district's ability to provide a stable environment for students to learn in.
Since then, LAUSD has built two entirely below-market rate apartment buildings, and is building a third, for its staff members to live in, according to the L.A. Times. While the buildings were originally conceived as housing specifically for teachers in challenging neighborhoods—where nearly half the teachers hired left after just three years—it turns out that even the newest LAUSD teachers make too much money for the district's housing. While this isn't great for teachers who have to commute from, say, North Hollywood to Lakewood, the buildings are still filled with LAUSD employees like janitors and cafeteria workers.
LAUSD originally wanted the housing to be for teachers. Another 2009 report by the district determined that long commutes were one of the chief factor that lead to many of its new teachers leaving after just a few years. Problems arose, however, when the district ran into rules attached to the federal subsidies they used to build the properties.
The rules stipulated that people living in the new housing had to earn somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of the area's median income. Even the newest, least senior LAUSD teachers make more than $50,000 annually. At the district's Hollywood development, the maximum allowable income is $34,680. The average LAUSD janitor earns slightly more than $31,000 annually, and the typical cafeteria worker earns slightly more than $14,000 annually.
Regardless of whether or not teachers specifically could live in the new apartments, the district was overwhelmed with applications for residency when the apartments went on the market. When the district opened applications for its 66-unit Hollywood building, they received more than 2,300 applications from employees, according to as Curbed L.A. Rent for a 1-bedroom unit in the district's Gardena Complex is less than $600 monthly. Another housing complex is nearing completion near Norwood Elementary School, just north of USC.
While pronounced, LAUSD's problem of teachers and staff being outright unable to afford to live near the schools where they work is not as bad as their colleagues who work up in the Bay Area. For nearly a decade now, public school districts throughout the Bay have been struggling to pay its new teachers enough to find housing anywhere in the Bay.