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School Board Approves Affordable Housing Project for District Staff

Published on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 | 4:46 am

The Pasadena Unified School District voted 6-1 to approve an affordable housing project that would create housing for District staff, including teachers, at the site formerly occupied by Roosevelt Elementary School.

“I’m happy the District can finally begin to move the project along. It will help benefit the staff and District enrollment,” said Trustee Michelle Richardson Bailey.

“These two issues are vitally important to the success of local schools.”

The high price of housing has driven families with school-age children out of the District, causing a plunge in local Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds.

The continued flight from the District led the majority of the Board members to support Measure H, a local rent control initiative passed by the voters.

The early stages of the project could cost more than half a million dollars.

If the District could fully fund the project without outside funds, it would allow the District autonomy on the project.

Bailey said rent could be based on the salaries of employees if the District maintains control of the project.

Bailey has been pushing for workforce housing since she began her successful run for School Board in 2017.

The District closed Roosevelt at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The District is hoping to fully fund the project with some money from Measure O.

Last month, the School Board approved drafting measures that would place a bond and parcel tax on the November ballot.

More details are expected at a meeting in May.

The bond would generate $900 million by increasing taxes by a rate of $60 per $100,000.

“There was a time when we didn’t feed children lunch or breakfast and now we do,” said Trustee Jennifer Hall Lee. “Public school Districts around the state are building staff housing because the cost of housing is astronomical.

Staff housing is family housing. Children who are homeless are 87% more likely to drop out of school.”

Last year Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation loosening zoning requirements making it easier for California school Districts to build affordable housing for their teachers and other staff.

Over the last seven years, legislators have removed hurdles around building teacher housing. The new legislation will allow staff housing to be built on any property owned by a school District without requiring the District to request zoning changes from city or County officials.

The law will be in effect until Jan. 1, 2033.

The law is aimed at keeping teachers in California while helping them deal with housing.

“Teachers and staff are leaving because the skyrocketing cost of living and stagnant salaries make it almost impossible to afford living in the communities where they teach,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the author of the legislation. “We are hemorrhaging talented teachers, which ultimately negatively impacts the quality of a public education for our kids. We can do better. AB 2295 gives school Districts an essential tool in addressing staffing challenges by utilizing properties they already own.”

The results of a workforce housing survey conducted last year revealed a significant need for affordable housing options for PUSD employees in Pasadena.

Findings also suggested that addressing the need could help attract and retain high-quality educators and staff.

The survey reported that most PUSD employees (70%) spend more than 30% of their income on housing, which is considered a high housing cost burden. The survey also reported the average monthly rent/mortgage paid by PUSD employees is $2,200.

Rent in the area is well over $3,000.

More than half of the respondents (56%) reported that they would be interested in living in District-owned rental housing units offered at below-market rent reserved for PUSD employees.

The report says that “long commute times” were identified as a significant challenge for many PUSD employees, with 40% reporting that their commute time was more than 30 minutes each way.

The report recommended exploring partnerships with local developers to build affordable housing units and providing financial assistance to employees to help them with down payments or rental costs.

“I think it is necessary,” said Patrice Marshall McKenzie. “Every District in the state that can do it is doing it and PUSD has a significant need to create additional housing alleviate the burden on employees who are traveling far distances for their jobs some as far away as Bakersfield to increase their quality of life and retain employees.

“We have the land so why would we not be smart about how we use the land, benefit our employees and provide a community asset. And in our small way help alleviate the state’s housing crisis.”

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