As the election heats up, housing is one of the key issues that all the candidates are tackling. Admittedly, this is not something that I normally write about, but one teacher’s plight offered me insight and ideas, which I will share…
Housing is a regional problem. But there is no one solution to it. It has to be addressed comprehensively, ensuring that we look at the needs of employers, employees, the community, and our families. It also demands that we work together to address issues such as: A community provides the jobs, but not the homes, which causes a fundamental imbalance. Or: One city provides services to the homeless as other cities watch, hoping the homeless in their city move to the provider city. These problems are further complicated by dwindling land availability and poor transportation infrastructure and economics. To solve those problems, we need true leaders, ones who can inspire and bring people together under a common plan.
But, I digress… Here are a couple ideas, mainly targeted to teachers, school staff, and city workers who want to live sustainably in Milpitas…
Network of below-market rooms
I have been told that there is a growing number of “empty nester” homes as people’s children go off to college or careers in other places (often because they can’t afford to live here). We will need to verify that assumption. But, if it’s true, what if we (i.e., the city or county) created an incentive program for these “empty nester” homeowners to rent rooms to teachers, school staff, and city workers? Involved agencies would promise “good renters with reliable incomes” as well as rental support (marketing, legal assistance, etc.) to the homeowners in return for below-market rents upon just the first month’s rent (akin to 30% of the average teacher’s monthly salary). The homeowner gets a stream of income, along with perhaps a bit of additional companionship or help around the house, and the community makes a small dent in the housing crisis. In the bargain, we keep good teachers, staff, and city workers local. Win, win.
Create a security deposit loan program
One of the biggest challenges to moving and affording a place to stay is just saving up enough money. If the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment around town is $2,400, and most homeowners or apartment managers want first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit, you can see the huge hurdle faced by people. Who has $7,200 sitting around with which to move? But, what if we (i.e., the city or county) had a program for teachers, school staff, and city workers whereby they could borrow a low- or zero-interest loan for the security deposit? The employees could pay that loan back as a payroll deduction over a year or so. The agency can grant fairly low-risk loans. The community gets to keep good teachers, staff, and city workers local, at a relatively low investment cost. Yes, the details and the program rules would need to be worked out, but is this a win, win, too? I think so.
Since it is election season, here’s my challenge to the candidates: Who can not only champion solutions like those cited above, but make them happen for our teachers, staff, and city workers?
By the way, the teacher who I mentioned earlier was able to make it work — but just the same, solutions like these help to build community, which is my leading interest.