As teachers leave the Bay Area during the housing crisis, Brightline continues its work analyzing and linking the impact of housing policies on access to jobs, with a specific focus on advocating for teachers and middle class workers.
Brightline's work in teacher housing policy began in October 2015, as Brightline Legal Fellow Dilini Lankachandra analyzed federal constitutional issues regarding housing development for specific worker classes.
Throughout 2016, a coalition of eleven community organizations, including Brightline and longtime partner Peer Resources, then united to fight for more affordable teacher housing. The Coalition's first public advocacy effort supported the Teacher Housing Act of 2016 (SB 1413), introduced by State Senator Mark Leno and also supported by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2016, the Teacher Housing Act freed up state and federal funds to create housing specifically for teachers and school district employees. The Act also provides clear authorization for school districts to develop housing on district-owned property, which will enable districts facing the most acute teacher shortages to directly address the lack of affordable housing that is forcing teachers out of our communities.
Yet much more work remains to be done as San Francisco has yet to propose, let alone build, brick-and-mortar housing at a scale large enough to retain teachers in the City. In addition to emphasizing the urgent need for affordable housing in a March 22 hearing convened by Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Asha Safai, Brightline will continue to engage in an upcoming May 9, 2017 housing forum on the subject.
Indeed, teachers have become the bellwether of rising income inequality in the United States as they are increasingly unable to afford to live near where they work. Forced to choose between spending too much on housing costs and moving far away to deal with long and expensive commutes, many teachers opt for a third option: leaving the school district altogether.
“Teachers are essential building blocks of American communities and cities,” said Brightline’s executive director Eddie Ahn. “As we continue to push for policies ensuring equitable access to jobs, affordable housing for everyone is another important element for sustainable environments.”