Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan are dedicating $5 million to ensure California teachers don’t end up homeless.
Despite having some of the most highly paid teachers in the nation, particularly in Silicon Valley, real estate prices are just too high in California. Unfortunately, this results in well-paid teachers who cannot afford their homes. And when these teachers can’t find safe and affordable housing in the districts where they work, some end up homeless.
To address this issue, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which is an education and healthcare foundation created by the couple, will partner with the real estate startup Landed. Their goal is to establish homes for public school teachers in their own school districts.
The way it works is simple: When a teacher is looking to buy a home in a specific location, Landed will set them up with an investor who is able to put down capital for a down payment on a home. When the home goes up for sale, or 30 years have passed, the investor will receive about 25% of the home’s gains or loses. This system is a win for everyone involved — the investor will make a profit off the assumption home prices will continue to rise (a relatively safe bet in places like Silicon Valley), and the teacher will have a home to call their own.
Considering that roughly 75% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and 27% don’t have any savings at all, this is especially helpful for teachers who need a little extra boost in a market with rising home prices and stagnant wages.
As new tech companies have sprouted up like weeds in Northern California, housing prices have risen steadily. Thousands of people have moved West to find work with these businesses, and the result is a housing market heavy on demand and light on supply.
According to Business Insider, the funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will go primarily to teachers in the Ravenswood City School District and the Redwood City School District in Redwood City, and the Sequoia Union High School District in East Palo Alto.
The decision to donate these funds comes shortly after the San Francisco Chronicle published a story on public teacher Etoria Cheeks, a homeless math teacher at a San Francisco high school. Cheeks has a master’s degree and makes about $65,000 a year, yet she lost her home in foreclosure around Christmas. Since then Cheeks has lived in hostels, guests rooms, and a homeless shelter.
And teachers aren’t the only school employees struggling to find affordable housing; only half of the public school workforce is made up of teachers. The other half is made up of guidance counselors, nurses, speech therapists, and other specialized personnel.
Unfortunately, until cities like San Jose and San Francisco solve their affordable housing crisis, stories like Cheeks’ will become all too common.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative isn’t alone in dedicating funds to homeless teachers — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced in May that the city has pledged $44 million to spend on the city’s first ever housing development made specifically for teachers.