Colorado teachers earning average salaries can afford to buy fewer than a fifth of the homes in their school districts — and homeownership is more out of reach in districts with higher wages.
But raising wages alone won’t fix the problem, according to a new report from the Keystone Policy Center that says the government needs to consider new housing policies to help teachers and other middle-income public sector workers live where they work. Potential solutions include downpayment assistance, access to lower interest rates, and community partnerships to build more housing.
The report looks at the relationship between teacher salaries and home prices across Colorado’s 178 school districts. While teacher wages have increased dramatically since 2015, after stagnating for many years after the Great Recession, they’ve been far outpaced by the increase in housing prices and higher interest rates. In many parts of the state, more housing was affordable on a teacher’s salary seven years ago, when wages were lower.
The median teacher salary in St. Vrain Valley School School District north of Denver is $65,000 a year, and just 9% of housing is affordable. Seven years ago, when the median teacher salary was $53,000, almost half the homes in the district were affordable. Teachers fell behind even as the supply of housing in the district increased 13%.
Some districts with lower wages had more affordable housing because the cost of housing was lower too. The majority of housing in school districts on the eastern plains, in the San Luis Valley, and in Pueblo and the Raton Basin is affordable on a teacher’s earnings. In the East Otero school district, average teacher salaries are $45,000 a year and 97% of housing could be considered affordable.
The study draws on Colorado Department of Education teacher salary data, county property assessment records, and interest rates going back to 2007 to look at whether teachers could afford to buy a home in the district where they work. Housing was deemed affordable if a teacher earning the median salary would spend no more than 30% of their income on a mortgage payment, after putting 20% down.
An interactive map allows users to see the median salary and available affordable housing in every Colorado school district for 2007, 2015, and 2021. Users can also set a custom salary and see how much teachers would have to earn to afford most housing.
Van Schoales, senior policy director at the Keystone Policy Center, said he increasingly hears from school districts that the high price of housing is making it harder to hire and hang onto teachers. But most of the focus of the conversation is on teacher salaries, rather than housing policy.
“You need to think about both,” he said. “Even with the increase in salary, it’…….