New teachers can't afford the rent in all but one major U.S. city

By Aimee Picchi

/ MoneyWatch

Teachers in the U.S. are getting a grim lesson in economics as their pay is eclipsed by rising housing costs. The result: New members to the profession can't afford the rent in all but one major U.S. city, according to a new study from Zillow.

The median rent across the U.S. stands at $1,483, which would eat up almost 47% of the typical new teacher's monthly pay, the real estate data firm found. That's approaching what experts consider a "severe rent burden," or when consumers spend half their income on housing, leaving little wiggle room for other daily expenses and making it harder to save for retirement or an emergency.

Of the nation's largest 50 metropolitan areas, only one city provides an affordable rent for teachers: Pittsburgh. The Iron City's median rent is $1,108, which would consume 29.5% of a new teacher's monthly income — below the 30% level that's considered the threshold for housing affordability. Even mid-career teachers may struggle to afford housing. Zillow found they must spend almost 36% of their pay on the median rent.

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While housing prices have continued to rise across much of the U.S., teachers now earn 11.1 percent less than comparable professionals, the Economic Policy Institute found in a 2018 study. That represents a record pay gap between educators, whose wages have stagnated, and other college-educated workers.

San Francisco gets an "F"

Some cities with famously expensive housing costs are out of reach for new teachers, forcing them to either live with roommates or move back with their parents, Zillow said. The median rent in San Francisco stands at $3,466, which would consume 104% of a new teacher's salary, it said.

The housing affordability crisis impacts all of us, including teachers and first responders who can't live in the communities that they serve. It's yet another reason why we need rent control — now! https://t.co/QcT7ASiQkj

— Housing Is A Human Right (@HousingHumanRt) August 22, 2019

One way to alleviate the problem would be to build more housing, said Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research.

"Without that new influx to take the pressure off rent and aggressive home value growth, it's the public servants, like teachers, firefighters, and nurses – the professions that keep us safe, our kids smart and our families healthy – that often feel the pinch most," Olsen said in a statement.

Of course, housing is just one side of the problem. Teacher pay has been highlighted by strikes in states such as Kentucky and Oklahoma, where teachers protested low wages and pension changes.

Across the country, teachers are earning almost 2% less than they did in 1999 and 5 percent less than their 2009 pay, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

First published on August 27, 2019 / 12:42 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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