The Housing Reality for Those Who Teach

According to a new report from Redfin, the average teacher can afford, on average, 12% of homes for sale within commuting distance of their school, a number which is down from 17% in 2022 and 30% before the pandemic in 2019. In addition, the average teacher nationwide can afford just 27% of available rentals within commuting distance to their school. 

For this analysis, Redfin used the average of teacher salaries from the top-50 metropolitan areas which includes more than 70,000 PreK-12 public and private schools. Redfin further defined “commuting distance” as a drive between work and home which can be completed in 20 minutes during rush hour. 

As state funding dwindles nationwide and salaries stagnate, teachers are struggling to find affordable housing near their workplace in large part because due to salary requirements compounded by inflation. The average U.S. public school teacher salary rose 2% in 2021-2022 from the prior year to $66,745, but when adjusted for inflation, teachers are making $3,644 less than they were a decade ago, according to the National Education Association. Almost half of the 50 most populous metros saw teacher pay decrease in 2022 from a year earlier. 

According to Redfin, as teacher salaries stagnate, housing prices continue to climb—a confluence of events that has forced many educators to drop out of the field, contributing to a teacher shortage in some areas. The typical homebuyer’s monthly mortgage payment is up nearly 20% from a year ago as a shortage of homes for sale props up home prices. Rent prices are also inching back toward their record high. 

On average, there are 796 homes for sale within commuting distance of schools in the top-50 metro areas, down 24% from 2022 and 46% from before the pandemic in 2019. The housing shortage has intensified over the past year due to the lock-in effect prompting many homeowners to stay put. That has left buyers with limited options—an imbalance of supply and demand that’s keeping prices elevated. 

“The shortage of affordable homes is exacerbating the shortage of teachers,” said Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “Many teachers who can’t afford to buy a house near work are either renting and missing out on the opportunity to build wealth through home equity or leaving education in search of more lucrative careers.” 

Redfin further states, some cities are coming up with creative ways to retain teachers, converting old schools, convents and historic buildings into affordable housing for educators. And the federal government offers homebuying programs for eligible teachers in the form of grants and down payment assistance. Half of U.S. states have also proposed laws to boost teacher pay this year, though only a handful have succeeded. 

If teachers want to live where they teach, they should look to the Midwest for affordable housing to either buy or rent. 

Redfin says teachers in Detroit can afford up to 67% of homes for sale within commuting distance of their school, the highest share among the top-50 metros. This is followed by Cleaveland (59%), Pittsburgh (53%), Philadelphia (49%) and St. Louis (40%). 

The list is similar for rentals. Ranking first is Cleveland, where the typical teacher can afford 82% of available rentals within commuting distance of their school. It’s followed by Pittsburgh (76%), Detroit (73%), Milwaukee (73%) and Philadelphia (62%). 

 to view the report in its entirety. 

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