Housing

Arizona school districts build subsidized homes for teachers

Housing costs could drive away teachers in areas with expensive real estate. Several districts are working on solutions to that problem.

Prescott Unified School District housing plan.
Prescott Unified School District via KNXV
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Arizona ranks No. 32 in the U.S. in average teacher pay at $56,775, according to the National Education Association. But real estate is No. 15 for most costly in the U.S., according to Rocket Homes. 

Because teachers lack the buying power in Arizona to purchase a home, districts are being creative with their solutions. Some educators in the Prescott Unified School District and the Chino Valley Unified School District could soon be offered subsidized housing. 

In Prescott, the district is building new homes for teachers to rent out for at least a year. Six homes will be built behind Taylor Hicks Elementary School. Four of those homes will be for teachers, and through a partnership with the city of Prescott, one will go to a firefighter and another to a police officer.

Chino Valley said it is looking to build 10 studio units and hopes to have them done by August of this year.

Rent for the community in Prescott will be about $1,200, according to Prescott Unified Assistant Superintendent Clark Tenney. It’s about 900 square feet and will have two bedrooms and one bathroom.

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It’ll cost the district almost $1 million. That money comes from the district’s funds which can only be used for new builds. Tenney said they do not have any other plans to build new schools yet, so they could use that money to build the homes. The district will also have an additional $500,000 grant to help.

“People are often very surprised about how expensive it is to live here. We’ve had people call up and say, ‘I can’t do it. I'm so sorry,’ and that puts us behind in the hiring phase,” he said.

Of course one natural question is why not pay teachers a higher salary. 

“If somebody can give me a $5-$10 million annual stream of new funding, absolutely, we’ll pay teachers more. But, that’s not what we have available. What we have available is $500,000 matching grant for teacher housing now,” Tenney said.

Prescott High School math teacher Jacob Harrelson said finding housing was a challenge. 

He spent four days last April looking for a home in Prescott after moving from New Mexico. Of the places he found, he said they were too expensive for his first-year teacher salary. He eventually resigned to moving in with a roommate.

“When I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, great… I’m a year late. What the heck.’ I think this is such a wonderful opportunity, especially for new teachers,” Harrelson said.

Information from KNXV was used in this report.