Miami-Dade County Public Schools is looking at an innovative way of making life more affordable for their teachers.
Amid a wide gap between modest teacher salaries and Miami’s high housing prices, the county has a new plan: build apartments on school property and let faculty live there.
A preliminary proposal includes constructing a new mid-rise middle school in the luxe Brickell area for Southside Elementary, with a floor devoted to residential units, and several more reserved for parking and the classrooms on top. If that goes well, Miami-Dade wants a full-fledged housing complex next to Phillis Wheatley Elementary, with as many as 300 apartments going up on the campus just north of downtown.
“It’s an exciting idea,” said Michael Liu, Miami-Dade’s housing director. “Land is at a premium in Miami-Dade County. It’s difficult to come by, especially in the urban core.”
Though preliminary, the joint effort by Miami-Dade’s school system and housing department has momentum.
The concept would add Miami to a scattering of cities across the country where schools are using their own real estate to provide more affordable housing to their workforces. As the largest employer in Miami-Dade, the school system has long cited housing prices as a top recruiting hurdle.
When Apartment List last year matched teacher salaries with rents in 50 of the country’s largest real estate markets, Miami ranked 47th; only New York, Seattle and San Francisco had larger gaps. With a first-year teacher earning about $42,000 and raises coming slowly, Apartment List found even established teachers could expect to spend as much as two-thirds of their incomes on a two-bedroom apartment in Miami.
“When you look at teacher salaries, it’s just impossible for them to get into the housing market,” said Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, which studies the gap between income and housing in Miami. Using school property to create housing for the school system’s workforce “is a good idea, because land is such a difficult piece of the puzzle.”
Rather than come up with some housing plan that basically makes the school system the teachers’ landlord — which has some unpleasant connotations for some people — here’s a simple solution: pay the teachers more.