Living in a costly state like California, where home prices are through the roof, affording a place to live on a teacher salary is nearly impossible – especially in the Bay Area.

  • Just 17 percent of homes for sale are affordable on the average teacher salary in California.
  • Silicon Valley offers no affordable homes for teachers, in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
  • About 60 percent of the homes for sale in Fresno, where teachers make around $77,000 per year, are affordable for local educators.

Living in a costly state like California, where home prices are through the roof, affording a place to live on a teacher salary is nearly impossible – especially in the Bay Area.

Although the Golden State holds a fantastic record for rising incomes, there’s still a large disparity between California teacher wages and housing costs. The average home costs well over $500,000, according to Redfin. The website’s Chief Economist Nela Richardson says this is $200,000 higher than what the average teacher’s salary can afford when assuming just 30 percent of their income is spent on housing.

“Though California is a striking example, it’s not the only state with this issue,” Richardson said in the study. “Due to the yawning gap between incomes and home prices in communities across the country, our public servants can’t afford to live in the communities they serve.”

Based on statewide averages, California teachers take home a salary of $73,536 annually, which pairs with just 17 percent of homes currently on the market. Back in 2012, when teachers made an average $70,487 annually, around 30 percent of these homes were within reach.

While California’s housing crash recovery is particularly robust given current home prices, some economic factors – including wages in academia – have failed to keep pace.

Where are California teachers out priced?

California teachers affordability

Not one home in Silicon Valley is affordable on an academic professional’s budget, Redfin says. San Mateo County in the Bay Area is notoriously expensive, completely pricing out middle-income earners. Santa Clara County, too, offers zero opportunity for educators to purchase a home in Northern California.

San Francisco County is only slightly better, with 0.2 percent of the market matching up with teacher wages — one out of 571 homes. Redfin says it takes four full teacher salaries to afford the typical Bay Area home, which is one salary more than in 2012.

Orange County teachers earn the highest salary in the state, at nearly $80,000 per year, making their max home budget around $330,000. Because home prices in the OC have escalated rapidly to a new median price of $624,000, affordability is 11 percent below 2012 levels. Now, only 3.2 percent of Orange County homes are accessible for local educators.

Los Angeles County falls in the middle of affordable California counties, with a lowly 7.1 percent of the housing market affordable for teachers. Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest district, saw homes increase 50 percent in price, while educator salaries rose just 4 percent during this four-year period. Since 2012, affordability for L.A. teachers dropped 17.4 percentage points.

“We are facing a massive teacher shortage, and unless the state and local school districts do something to make education a more attractive and financially sustainable career choice, that shortage is going to get worse and negatively impact millions of our students for a long time to come,” Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, said in a statement.

Counties with A+ affordability

The top counties where California teachers can realistically find a home include Merced, Fresno, Kern, Butte and Stanislaus, where 50 percent or more of homes are affordable at this income level.

In Fresno, where teachers make more than $77,000 per year, teachers can afford a $320,000 purchase price without exceeding the 30 percent rule. This budget encompasses almost 60 percent of the local market based on MLS list prices.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California, where 30 percent of the local market is under $300,000, are somewhat manageable as well. Teachers in the area make around $76,000 per year.

While these homeowner havens might work on a professor’s budget now, they’ve represented the starkest drops in affordability since 2012.

Email Jennifer Riner

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