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LAUSD built affordable housing for teachers who earn 'too much' to live there

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But the apartments have been a “boon” for lower income school district workers

An affordable housing complex built in Hollywood by LAUSD, which endorsed JJJ
Photo by Gary Krueger
Courtesy of Abode Communities

The Los Angeles Unified School District has been experimenting with constructing affordable housing for its employees, most recently in Hollywood, where it built a complex with 66 affordable apartments. The school district's experiment was originally intended to house teachers to stem intense employee turnover, but it ended up instead being "an unintentional boon" to the district’s service workers, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Because of strict federal income restriction guidelines for affordable housing, even the newest teachers make too much to qualify. District officials didn’t find this out until they were well into the process of trying to make units specifically for them.

A new LAUSD teacher can expect to start at just over $50,000 a year, but in the income-restricted apartments like the ones the LAUSD built in Hollywood, a single resident wanting to rent a one-bedroom apartment can’t make more than $34,860. (An LAUSD official told the Times that even after the district knew about the income restrictions, they still thought that a new teacher who was the sole breadwinner in a large family might qualify.)

The foray into affordable housing didn’t pan out for LAUSD teachers, but it has become a godsend to some lower-wage district employees, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, who do qualify for the apartments.

The demand seems to be enormous. More than 2,300 employees seeking apartments applied to live in the 66-unit Hollywood complex, a rep for the developer told Curbed. These workers often have such a hard time finding places to live that they can afford that "A few of the L.A. Unified service employees who moved into its affordable units previously had been living in homeless shelters with their children," district officials told the Times.

So the problem of housing teachers persists. Teachers fall into what affordable housing proponents term "the missing middle"—they earn too much for affordable housing, but are likely still struggling to pay rents in Los Angeles, where the median two-bedroom cost about $2,600 last month, according to a recent ApartmentList report.

The president of the nonprofit development company Abode Communities, which worked with the district to build the affordable Hollywood apartments, told the Times, "We ran financial scenarios to see if we could serve entry-level teachers, but we would have lost too much of the public subsidy. There’s no special government funding out there that supports teachers."