FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        
April 18, 2018 For More Information, Contact:
Gabe Carhart
(408) 299-5050 office
(650) 740-9399 cell
[email protected]   COUNTY SETS ASIDE $6 MILLION FOR TEACHER HOUSING FOR NORTH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS   SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to set aside $6 million in funding to support the creation of affordable teacher housing in Palo Alto. Originally proposed by Board President Joe Simitian, the project aims to bring critically needed workforce housing to teachers in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.   “It’s better for everyone – folks trying to avoid traffic, kids getting an education, school districts trying to hire and retain the very best teachers for our schools, and of course our teachers themselves – when our teachers can live in or close to the communities where they teach,” said Simitian. “It’s never easy to develop workforce housing in such an expensive area; but we have the land, we have some funding available, and we know there are partners who want to make this work.”   The funds set aside come from the County’s Stanford Affordable Housing Fund, which are specifically designated for the creation of affordable housing near the Stanford University Campus. In January, Simitian proposed building teacher housing on the County-owned 1.5 acre site at 231 Grant Road in Palo Alto, across the street from the County Courthouse, and replacing the parking on that site with a parking structure on the Courthouse lot.   So far, the Superintendents of Mountain View Whisman School District, Mountain View Los Altos School District, Los Altos School District, Palo Alto Unified School District, and the Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District have expressed preliminary interest in the proposal to develop workforce housing for school employees on the site.   School employees, particularly those in the early and middle parts of their careers, are part of what is sometimes referred to as the “missing middle” – they don’t qualify for traditional affordable housing, but they can’t afford market-rate housing prices that are geared towards significantly higher-incomes.   “Great teachers are moving out of the Bay Area due to the housing crisis,” said Sarah Chaffin, a local mother and founder of SupportTeacherHousing.org. “Only roughly one percent of housing since 2015 in Santa Clara County has been built for middle income earners such as teachers according to the Silicon Valley Index. This project could be a game changer in terms of solving the teacher housing crisis, and could inspire others to follow its example.”   Due to the high cost of living, local school districts continuously face teacher shortages and teacher retention issues. It is often too expensive for teachers to live in or near the districts where they teach; and teachers sometimes leave their school districts midway through their careers in order to move to lower cost areas.   Simitian noted that, “No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. Time in the car is time not spent with students or preparing lesson plans. And our teachers become more and more remote from the communities where they teach. This was already a challenge years ago when I was on the School Board, and it’s only gotten worse with every passing year. I don’t think we have to accept this as inevitable. With a little creativity and collaboration we can make progress.”   The 231 Grant Ave site could host a significant number of units – anything from 60 units to 120 – but Simitian notes that all parties will have to be open to change as community members and funding partners weigh in on what is both possible and compatible with the surrounding community. Community services currently on the site could either be relocated nearby, or remain on the current site on the ground floor.   “To make a project like this work we need three things: a piece of dirt, money and community support,” said Simitian. “We’ve got the dirt; the County already owns the site. And I’m optimistic about public support. For the funding aspect, we’ll need partners, that’s for sure. But with these funds specifically designated for affordable housing in the North County, I’m hopeful that we can start to build some partnerships with others in the community."   Simitian, who grew up in Palo Alto as a teacher’s son, said, “I can recall the days when a teacher could own their own home here in Palo Alto, or in a nearby community. I know we can’t turn back the clock, but I’m convinced that there are solutions to this problem.”   ###

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