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Most teachers in SF and San Mateo County cannot afford to rent

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Council of Community Housing Organizations did the reading, writing, and arithmetic on teacher housing costs

The Mission High School and Museum Building, with its mission revival style belltower.
Mission High School in San Francisco.
Via Shutterstock

The Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO), a nonprofit group of “26 community-based housing developers and tenant advocates” based in San Francisco, put together a new report on the plight of teachers trying to make ends meet in the Bay Area, alleging that most educators cannot afford the high cost of housing.

For the purposes of the report (titled “Who Will Teach Our Children?”), CCHO treats the Bay Area as just San Francisco and San Mateo County, then examines variables like median incomes, teacher pay, and average rent and home prices.

For a single person across San Mateo County, the area median income (AMI) is $97,750 for one person or $136,800 for a family of four, according to CCHO.

The report does not break down the 2019 AMI for San Francisco; however, per the Mayor’s Office of Housing, it comes to $86,200 for one person and $123,150 for a household of four.

Some people might be surprised that San Mateo enjoys higher average wealth than SF, given how much attention is paid these days to the way tech salaries have spiked earnings in the city.

But that’s consistent with the findings of the U.S. Census, which reported a median income of $96,265 across all households in San Francisco for 2017, versus $105,667 in San Mateo County for the same year.

The report then calculates how much an average earner can afford in monthly rent, coming out to about $2,400 per month. Specifically, it comes to $2,443—or 30 percent of $8,145 per month. Note that this doesn’t include taxes, so in reality the average earner could afford significantly less.

Once again according to the census, that’s easily enough to afford the actual median rent in either San Mateo County (at $1,973 per month in 2017) or in San Francisco ($1,709 per month).

Of course, anybody who tries to find an apartment at those rates knows that median rent and median market rent are scarcely the same thing. On SF-based rental site Zumper, a single-bedroom apartment averaged $3,720 per month in SF in July of 2019. San Mateo County ranged from $3,450 per month in Mountain View to $2,330 in Daly City.

An average earner can still rent those homes, even if it means stretching beyond the federally recommended 30 percent ratio for housing costs each month.

The catch: Per CCHO, few Bay Area teachers make an average income. Preschool and daycare providers average just $29,429 per year across the two counties; kindergarten teachers net $49,768; elementary school teachers $75,500; and high school teachers top the list at $77,379.

“These figures represent median incomes for these occupations across all of SF and San Mateo counties, as reported by the California Employment Development Department for 2018,” the report says.

It also adds, “Median salaries will vary widely across school districts and between public and private schools. Salaries will vary widely for individuals depending on education, experience and tenure.”

In the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), for example, the 2019-2020 salary schedule starts at just $63,458 annually, which is tepid compared to the cost of renting.

But some teachers can end up making well over the city’s average income, topping out at $110,750. The latter is reserved for teachers with 28 years or more in the district and significant post-grad education.

Glassdoor reports an average teacher salary of just over $65,000 per year at SFUSD, based on 37 self-reported incomes.

And reports that the average public school teacher salary in San Francisco is $71,974 as of July 2019, but notes that “the range typically falls between $62,832 and $83,086.”

For the record, even a teacher making nearly $111,000 per year would still end up paying more than 37 percent of their income each month toward that $3,720-per-month, one-bedroom apartment on Zumper—before taxes.

Which is a lot to bite off, suffice to say. Earlier this year, Oakland-based non-profit Ed Source found that “teachers earning an average salary in nearly 90 percent of districts in the [Bay Area] did not earn enough to rent an affordable two-bedroom apartment,” noting that “nowhere is the gap between teacher pay and housing costs wider.”