Affordable housing for teachers remains a challenge

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: November 10, 2017

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released an analysis of housing affordability for teachers nationwide. The results show that Colorado, like many places in the nation, has work to do to ensure that teachers can afford to live in the communities they serve.

The study compared rent, down payments and home ownership costs for teachers in four Colorado districts: Denver, Douglas County, Jefferson County and Cherry Creek. Of the Colorado districts included in NCTQ’s analysis, only Cherry Creek, using median rent for a one-bedroom apartment, was considered affordable for entry-level teachers (those with a bachelor’s degree and no experience). None of the four Colorado districts examined in the analysis paid entry-level teachers a salary that would allow them to afford a median-level rent.

The analysis revealed that rental affordability improved slightly for teachers with five years of experience and a master’s degree. A teacher with these credentials and experience could afford to live in a one-bedroom apartment with median rent in Cherry Creek, Jefferson County and Denver.

Saving enough money for a down payment on a median-priced home is also a challenge for many teachers. It would take entry-level teachers in all four districts more than 13 years to save enough for a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home, assuming they were saving at least 10 percent of their annual salary.  Teachers with five years of experience and a master’s degree in Denver, Jefferson County and Cherry Creek would need to save for at least a decade in order to have enough for a down payment.

Home ownership costs, including mortgage payments and other associated costs, mirrored the results described above forrent and saving for a down payment. An entry-level teacher in Denver would need to spend nearly half of their salary on home ownership costs, while a teacher in Douglas County would need to spend 68 percent of their total salary. Home ownership remains unaffordable even for teachers with five years of experience and a master’s degree. Teachers with these credentials and experience could not afford a home in Denver, Jefferson County or Cherry Creek.

Affordability is based on the percent of a teacher’s salary that would go toward median rent or median home ownership costs. Spending more than 30 percent of salaries on rent or home ownership is considered unaffordable.

The housing affordability challenges plaguing both entry-level and veteran teachers are, in part, due to the cost of living in Colorado and our wildly inequitable school funding formula and unequal statewide revenue system for K-12 education. The Children’s Campaign believes that modernizing the way we finance education is a first and very critical step to ensuring that schools can attract and retain the high-quality teachers we need to help Colorado’s kids thrive.

Data for Douglas County were missing for rent and saving for down payments.

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The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit