At the July 12 Bring Workers Home forum in Minneapolis, I was reminded that workforce housing is an education issue - in more ways than one. Paul Fate, president and CEO of CommonBond Communities, a nonprofit provider of affordable rental housing with onsite resident services, shared data showing that families living in stable CommonBond homes have dramatically improved educational outcomes compared with children who have moved at least once during the academic year.
Participants also observed that teacher retention is a housing issue. Many teachers cannot afford to live in the communities in which they work, leading to long commutes and turnover. The Santa Clara Unified School District in northern California has credited improved retention due to new, affordable teacher housing with improved student performance.
Here in Chicagoland, the south suburban Village of Riverdale also reports improved student performance as a result of a $38 million redevelopment that broke ground in November 2007, converting the struggling Pacesetter community into Whistler Crossing. This new mixed-income, mixed-use community with well-designed open space, on-site resident services, and green development hallmarks earned MPC's 2010 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning. Among the positive ripple effects the new neighborhood has had on Riverdale: the student population of General George S. Patton Elementary school, which once had a mobility rate of 60 percent, has stabilized since the community's facelift, boosting the morale of parents, students and staff.
Some school districts and other employers have addressed workforce housing challenges by providing employer-assisted housing programs. For instance, Chicago Public Schools offers an employer-assisted housing benefit to help recruit and retain teachers in Chicago.
For more information on the connection between housing and education, here's research by the Center for Housing Policy on the subject.