Teachers Spend Nearly Half Their Income on Rent in the U.S.

Teachers Spend Nearly Half Their Income on Rent in the U.S.

Residential News » Seattle Edition | By Monsef Rachid | September 3, 2019 8:12 AM ET

According to Zillow, entry-level teachers will need to spend more than half of their salaries on the typical rent in 19 of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas this school year.

Nationally, it would take 46.8% of a typical starting teacher's salary to pay the median rent. This improves to 35.6% for a mid-career teacher - still above the generally accepted 30% threshold for housing costs to be considered affordable - and 26.6% for the highest-paid teachers.

Starting teachers literally cannot afford the typical home or rental in San Francisco or San Jose - median payments are greater than 100% of a starting teacher's salary in both metros. Finding a roommate or moving back in with parents may be the only option for these teachers - a previous analysis from HotPads®, a Zillow Group-owned apartment search platform, found that San Francisco renters can save more than $1,000 a month by living with roommates.

But it is not only the most expensive markets where teachers are cost burdened. New teachers spend greater than half of their income on market rate rent in some broadly affordable metros like Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Raleigh.

Of the 50 largest metro areas, only Pittsburgh offers affordable rent for starting teachers. And even the highest-paid teachers would find the typical rental affordable in just over half of large metros.

"Most acknowledge that building more homes is required to address the root cause of eroding housing affordability. Without that new influx to take the pressure off rent and aggressive home value growth, it's the public servants, like teachers, fire fighters, and nurses - the professions that keep us safe, our kids smart, and our families healthy - that often feel the pinch most," said Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research. "So don't think of housing affordability policies as a choice between change and the status quo. Crowded, job-rich communities will change -- and it will be either the buildings that change or the mix of people who can afford to live in them."

Teachers who own a home are in a better position, due in part to the benefit of low mortgage interest rates and decades-long terms that lock in payments even as home prices rise. Starting-level teachers pay 26.6% of their income for the typical mortgage payment nationally and spend less than 30% of their income in 31 of the 50 largest metros. The highest-paid teachers can afford mortgages in all but the four most-expensive metros in California. An additional chunk will come out of households' income for property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and common homeowner maintenance, but even after those expenses, ownership is still more affordable in many markets. All of this presumes, though, that they have managed to put 20% down.

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