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Keystone Policy Center report: 80% of Colorado teachers can't afford homes near work

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Posted at 3:47 PM, Sep 07, 2022

DENVER – The Keystone Policy Center released a new report that found less than 20% of homes in Colorado are valued at a price that is affordable for teachers earning an average salary.

“We found that salaries have gone up pretty significantly over the last few years, we found that they went up 25%. The problem is that housing costs have gone up dramatically more than that,” Keystone Policy Center senior policy director Van Schoales said. “We were interested in finding out what's the relationship between what teachers are making and whether or not they can live near the places that they're working and whether or not teachers have the access to homeownership and the American dream.”

Schoales, who led the research team, said data revealed 80% of teachers in Colorado cannot afford to buy a home close to where they work.

“The numbers are pretty dramatic. They vary a little bit by school district. What we did was we looked at what the salaries were in a particular school district, and then we compared them to what the cost of those houses were in that particular school district, and we looked at tax information to get the cost of those houses,” Schoales said.

Schoales said the research also uncovered solutions to affordable housing.

“One of the advantages of school districts is that they own lots of land, they're often one of the largest land holders within a particular town or county. So, there are lots of ways that school districts can leverage that land to create opportunities to build homes. We are seeing some examples of this. The Roaring Fork School District is an example of a school district that has been doing this for a few years,” Schoales said. “We're also seeing school districts around the country, for instance, some school districts in the Bay Area, have just begun to do some of this work.”

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Schoales said he hopes using statistics to highlight the problem will put policymakers in a better position to provide solutions.

For Escuela Valdez physical education teacher Jessica Dominguez, those solutions are overdue.

“Last year, I had one fellow teacher move away, couldn't afford it, couldn't find a house. I recently helped somebody get into housing, but it was a struggle. If she didn't have a large down payment from her mother, she wouldn't have been able to afford it,” Dominguez said. “Affordable homeownership is available, but that's for people at or below 80% of the median income. According to the Keystone study, teachers are averaging about $64,000 a year in Denver, they're right above the 80% threshold. So that is not considered quite low income and able to participate in these programs, but they don't make enough for the market.”

Dominguez leads the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s (DCTA) affordable housing committee.

“It was started about two years ago, just because of the displacement that, personally, I was seeing inside the classroom,” she said. “I also have a real estate business and I thought, "How come I can’t help people?"

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Dominguez said committee members have heard from hundreds of educators who are struggling to find affordable homes to buy.

“I get so many calls from people just hopeless, and they don't know about all these programs that are out there. So, a piece of it is just educating and letting people know about resources,” she said.

Dominguez said when recently using a homebuying app, she plugged in a maximum home price of $210,000 (what’s considered an affordable home for someone earning $60,000 a year) into the search engine.

“At a home price of $210,000, you're talking about a condo, right? So then you're thinking, "Well, there's an extra cost of the HOA." So that lowers the amount that they could afford. In the Denver metro, there were 20 homes available. Out of those 20 homes, five were listed for affordable housing programs… so teachers won't qualify at the $67,000, and so that left 15 And I think three were parking spaces,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez said if more affordable homes do not become available, teachers will leave and go to districts where the cost of living is lower.

The Keystone Policy Center will host a webinar to go over the research on Thursday at 1 p.m.