News | April 6th, 2023
Task Force on Workforce Housing for Teachers and Expansion of Schools
By: D'Aja Byers
What may have seemed like lost hope for some just became a long-anticipated reality for others as Florida’s HB589 Bill advocates for Task Force Workforce Housing for Teachers & Expansion of Schools.
Originally filed on Feb. 1, workforce housing defines the law as accommodations for singles, couples, or families that cost no more than 80% of the area median income after accounting for household size. The bill helps establish a task force as an adjunct to DEO; defines task force membership, duties, and responsibilities. As required in HB589, state agencies assist and cooperate with the task force, encouraging local governments to follow suit.
Several additional objectives included in the text of the bill highlight a determination of the need and availability of grants for such spaces, the identification of Florida regions that would benefit significantly from such initiatives, and an investigation into the viability of surplus use, as well as state-owned land and buildings as living in specified teaching areas.
According to the bill, the legislature discovers that recent rapid increases in the median purchase price of homes and the cost of rental housing have far exceeded the income of teachers in this state, preventing essential teachers from living in the communities where they serve and creating the need for innovative solutions for the provision of housing opportunities for teachers.
A Common Voice
Angel Tyson, a Mathematics Teacher and Department Chair at Griffin Middle School, has taught in Leon County for 17 years and details her take on receiving more affordable housing opportunities for teachers.
“I feel teachers should receive more affordable housing opportunities because teachers are struggling to make ends meet with what we take home. Some teachers are not in a comfortable position as far as money is involved, to live alone because rent is more than half of their income,” Tyson said while detailing her viewpoint.
Unfortunately for teachers, the average rent has grown 29% more than the inflation rate since 2000. Inflation rose by 70%, while the median rent price increased by 90%. Nationally, median housing prices rose by 156% between 2000 and 2022, while median rent prices rose by 90%. When asked if the median purchase of homes and the cost of rental housing is far outpaced, Tyson agreed.
“I agree with the median purchase of homes and the cost of rental housing is far outpaced for those in the education career because the income of teachers has not kept the pace of the housing increase,” said Tyson.
I have family and friends that couldn’t put a down payment, with first and last month’s rent towards an apartment they’re interested in because the asking cost is more than what they take home,” she continued.
Like the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Task Force plans to look into issues relating to the need for additional classrooms and educational facilities and the requirement that teachers reside in affordable housing. As for others actively pursuing their dreams of being an educator, the HB589 bill puts them in a period of consideration and advocation for what will soon become their reality.
Winzie Wilson, a 21-year-old English education major at Florida A&M University, plans to graduate and begin her career as an educator in 2024. After attaining her degree, Wilson plans to return home to South Florida in hopes of finding an affordable cost of living that fits the means of her career.
She bluntly responded when asked if she believes teachers deserve more affordable housing, emphasizing her fears about the bill.
“I do believe teachers deserve affordable housing as does anyone. Teachers deserve affordable housing because it’s the bare minimum that can be done to show teachers they’re appreciated, and we know the salary definitely doesn’t,” said Wilson.
“It’s about being paid your worth, especially when teachers typically don’t have the best homes, apartments, or living arrangements,” Wilson continued.
Another student with a similar expectation and understanding of the HB589 bill explains not only her frustration with the current rate of workforce housing for teachers but also the need for expansions of schools.
Ave Tanner, a third-year childhood education major at Florida A&M University, openly expresses her concern about teachers not receiving the needed support for survival.
“Workforce housing means that teachers will have a place to live which will mainly help with transportation due to them being in close proximity, but I still believe higher pay is needed since it is a high-demand job as well as a take-home job,” said Tanner
“Most teachers are struggling to pay their bills all while having a high-demand, take-home job. I believe the education career will suffer because more and more people will eventually start to realize that they are under-appreciated in this profession and less will start to show up,” Tanner continued.
A Hopeful Solution
Like the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Task Force would look into issues relating to the need for additional classrooms and educational facilities and the requirement that teachers reside in affordable housing.
The legislature also determines that more kid-friendly learning spaces and classrooms are required. The legislature created the Working Group on Workforce Housing for Teachers and Extension of Schools as an appropriate action to meet this demand in localities all over the state.
When asked if she agreed that additional schools and spaces for students are essential, Tanner’s passion for childhood education was evident in her response.
“Yes, schools should be designed to help children in any aspect so creating spaces that allow children to grow beyond – gym and music is crucial especially in these times that we are going through. It’s important to provide them a space to learn and receive the needed resources,” said Tanner.
The legislature established the Task Group on Workforce Housing for Teachers and Extension of Schools as a reasonable measure to take in order to address the needs present in communities across the state. Should the proposal succeed, establishing the Task Force would mandate submitting reports of its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by Feb. 1, 2024.