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For Immediate Release

High housing costs, low wages mean housing, transport strain for school employees

Many education workers shut out of rental, ownership markets in 210 U.S. metros

WASHINGTON—Roughly 17 percent of the American population spends upwards of 45 minutes commuting to and from work, and the prevalence of these long commutes is consistently increasing, according to the U.S. Census. Often, in metro areas where affordable housing options are few and far between, families choose to live far away from work and school in an effort to offset the high cost of housing.

Such is the case for education workers and school employees. The 2016 installment of “Paycheck to Paycheck,” released today by the National Housing Conference, explores the housing affordability challenges of five common workers in the education sector: bus drivers, child care teachers, groundskeepers, social workers and high school teachers. The report finds that none of the occupations earns salaries high enough to make either renting or owning affordable in each of the 210 metro areas explored.

School workers struggle to afford housing near where they work
Among the school workers profiled, bus drivers, those workers responsible for ensuring children are transported to and from school in a safe and timely manner, have the lowest earnings of workers in the five highlighted occupations. The median salary for a bus driver is just $23,412, compared to the overall national median income of $53,482. Homeownership is a struggle for bus drivers in all 210 metro areas, though the typical salary brings them close in lower-cost metros like Wheeling, West Virginia and Bay City, Michigan. Bus drivers are also unable to afford a typical two-bedroom rental home in any of the analyzed metro areas.

Unsurprisingly, “Paycheck” finds that high school teachers have the highest earnings of the five occupations examined, bringing in a median income of $56,882. This makes it possible for them to rent in 94 percent of the metros analyzed (198 of 210). Still, many high school teachers struggle with home ownership. High school teachers at the median salary can afford to own a median priced home in only 62 percent of metro areas. In more expensive regions, they are even less likely to find affordable housing. For example, in San Luis Obispo, California, a high school teacher would need to make double the typical local salary of that position ($57,904) to afford to own a home.

“Education workers provide such essential services to our children and communities, yet many are unable to afford to live near where they work, which causes major strain for these workers and their families,” said NHC Housing Research Associate and report co-author Brian Stromberg. “Non- instructional workers, like groundskeepers, are an essential part of the fabric of the school community, but high housing costs in many metro areas prevent them from being truly part of the communities where they work.”

Groundskeepers are responsible for maintaining and ensuring the safety of athletic fields, playgrounds and other outdoor school spaces. For their work, they receive a median salary of $34,214, which often means finding affordable housing is a difficult task. The can afford to rent in just 57 of the 210 metro areas analyzed.

Policy solutions
“Paycheck to Paycheck 2016” notes several federal, state and local policy solutions that can assist education workers and others occupations with similar incomes with renting and homeownership. The federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program administers funds to subsidize new construction or home renovation, or to offer down payment assistance loans or grants. These funds are reserved for households making 80 percent or less of the area median income. This income range encompasses bus drivers, child care workers, groundskeepers and other lower-income workers in the vast majority of metro areas. First-time homebuyer programs and down payment assistance, and local inclusionary zoning programs that tie affordability to new development, are also good policies to create more affordable housing options for education workers.

In addition, some state and local governments have developed their own programs to focus specifically on the affordable housing needs of education workers.

“Some affordability programs focus on helping teachers, like the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s Teachers Mortgage Assistance Program, but other programs cast a wider net in terms of providing support. For example, the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation has a program that provides low-cost loans and down payment assistance to a range of education workers, including teachers and aides, counselors, nurses and librarians,” said Mindy Ault, NHC research associate and report co-author.

The full report, a database of wages and housing costs for 81 occupations in 210 metro areas and report methodology are available here.

About the National Housing Conference:
The National Housing Conference represents a diverse membership of housing stakeholders including tenant advocates, mortgage bankers, nonprofit and for-profit home builders, property managers, policy practitioners, real estate agents, equity investors and more, all of whom share a commitment to safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America. We are the nation’s oldest housing advocacy organization, dedicated to the affordable housing mission since our founding in 1931. We are a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together our broad-based membership to advocate on housing issues. Learn more at


Amy Clark
202.466.2121 ext. 226
206.240.3284 (mobile)

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