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Plan for CMS teacher housing includes four ‘villages,’ aid for renting and buying

Math teacher Brandi Doty helped Providence High earn the state's second-highest growth rating for 2023.
Ann Doss Helms
Math teacher Brandi Doty helped Providence High earn the state's second-highest growth rating for 2023.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has a long-range vision for recruiting teachers by building four “Teacher Village” affordable housing complexes and finding subsidies for renters and homebuyers.

It would require a partnership between private investors, developers, landlords, the school district, the county and the city of Charlotte. The four villages alone are expected to cost $120 million to $160 million.

Superintendent Crystal Hill has been making broad references to a program to reduce housing costs for teachers, but she and other district officials say they’re not ready to discuss details until a big rollout this summer. But this week’s presentation to a Charlotte City Council committee included a summary of the long-range plans, which WFAE obtained through a public record request. CMS is asking the city for $1 million in start-up costs.

Much of Mecklenburg's housing market is out of reach for people living on a CMS teacher salary, district officials say.
Eric Teel
Much of Mecklenburg's housing market is out of reach for people living on a CMS teacher salary, district officials say.

“Due to woefully low salaries for teachers and the sharp inclines in housing costs in the Charlotte-Metro region, it is cost prohibitive to live and work in Charlotte, without seeking external sources of income,” the Teacher Village proposal says.

CMS Board Chair Stephanie Sneed elaborated on Charlotte Talks Tuesday, talking about encountering teachers who are waiting tables, driving for Uber and working at the Charlotte airport parking deck.

If all goes as planned, the first Teacher Village would open with 100 affordable units for teachers in 2027. CMS has not disclosed the location.

Sneed acknowledged that housing for 100 teachers is “a drop in the bucket” for a district that employs about 9,000 teachers. She said the first village will be a pilot: “So how can we support our teachers in the housing space? This will give us the opportunity to see what works well, what we need to tweak, how we make it scalable.”

Some City Council members said they’re also interested in the CMS project as a potential model for creating housing for other government employees who can’t afford market rates.

Partnership plans

The proposal says the first Teacher Village will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom units to teachers, at rates affordable to people earning 60% to 100% of the area's median income. That translates to about $42,000 to $70,000 for a single person or $60,000 to $100,000 for a family of four.

CMS teacher pay starts at $46,300 a year and averages just over $60,000, the report says.

CMS would provide the land, at four locations across the county, and work with the county to lease the sites to developers. The plan also calls for negotiating property tax exemptions from the city and county to help reduce housing costs.

CMS is working with Laurel Street, a Charlotte developer that specializes in affordable and mixed-income housing. It worked with CMS to create the Renaissance West education village in west Charlotte.

Laurel Street would find private equity investors to cover construction costs, though the plan says CMS may seek county “gap funding” of $2.5 million to $4 million. The city’s housing committee voted to recommend budgeting $1 million for start-up costs, contingent on CMS providing more details about the project.

The proposal says housing would be offered “in exchange for employment commitments,” with priority given to teachers in core subjects and hard-to-fill fields. For example, special education and secondary math teachers are traditionally scarce.

Hill has said that some landlords already offer rent discounts for educators. In addition to the villages, the housing plan calls for expanding those efforts and getting developers to agree to set aside homes in new developments that would be sold to educators at cost. There will also be efforts to line up reduced-rate and deferred-payment mortgages and subsidized down payments for teachers buying homes.

A timeline presented to the City Council committee says the school board will vote to approve the first Teacher Village site this month.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.