Samantha Chambers is a sophomore English major.
As the housing crisis in San Francisco escalates, residents belonging to the lower-middle class have been increasingly affected. Some of the most significant communities burdened with the pains of the ever-rising cost of living are those in education, specifically teachers. Although they’ve devoted their lives to the scholarship and developmental growth of San Francisco’s youth, teachers are not receiving the support they deserve in regards to affordable housing. Instead, many are fearfully living “paycheck to paycheck” while trying to support their families. Teachers need to be supported by the communities they serve by way of subsidized, affordable housing.
According to a study reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and produced by budgetary analyst Harvey Rose, “A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and more than 25 years of experience makes $6,000 too little to afford a studio apartment” in San Francisco. Even if some teachers could find an apartment within budget, the majority of them have children and families to support and need substantially more space than what is provided in a studio apartment. Consequently, teachers have been forced to migrate out of the city. These tedious commutes vary in time, ranging anywhere from one to five hours a day. Instead of being able to focus on creating lesson plans, grading assignments or meeting with struggling students, teachers in the Bay Area are plagued by endless hours of driving on a daily basis. This not only puts a strain on an educator’s work performance, but also on their overall quality of life.
For those lucky enough to remain in the city, the daunting fear of eviction is an ever-looming presence. Though rent control exists in San Francisco, many landlords have found loopholes and various ways to raise rent prices. One example is through the Ellis Act, which states that landlords have the right to evict all tenants from the premises at once if they plan to “change the function of the building.” According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, “most Ellis evictions are used to convert rental units to condominiums, using loopholes in the condo law.” Sadly, this is just one of the many ways residents who cannot afford to increase their rent are being pushed into lower-income areas or out of the city. Many teachers who have resided in the city for years endure the constant fear of being thrown out of their homes with only five to 30 days’ notice.
This crisis does not discriminate between teachers of differing ages, degrees of experience or education levels. As the cost of living rises, all educators teaching below the collegiate level continue to suffer. These people have paid their dues to society; they do not deserve to be living with several roommates, in studio apartments with their children, or commuting for three to four hours a day. Most teachers living in the Bay are also forced to take side jobs just to make ends meet. If this process continues, teachers could eventually give up working in San Francisco altogether. This potential loss of educators will not only cause the quality of education to suffer in San Francisco’s communities, but it will also negatively impact students who depend on consistency in their mentors.
Though there has been little to no progress, legislators of San Francisco and the San Francisco Unified School District have supposedly been addressing this issue for over a decade. The San Francisco Chronicle reported a telling quote by Mark Sanchez, a school board member who lobbied for affordable housing while serving in 2004 and recently reclaimed a seat in 2016. On the pace of progress regarding this issue, Sanchez said “I’d say it’s glacial, but I think with global warming, it’s slower than glacial.” Unfortunately, there have been no substantial actions taken, and the issue has only been discussed. The most recent plans for any forms of affordable housing were set before the twenty-first century; however none of these projects ever came to fruition.
City officials need to make good on the promises they have been discussing for years. Teachers need subsidized housing in the Bay Area. Hopefully, if considerable changes are made in San Francisco, this progress will spread to other high-income areas across the U.S, where educators are undergoing the same obstacles. Affordable housing for teachers needs to become a priority. The longer this issue is overlooked, the more detrimental the effects will be in the long term.