The Housing Problem

A new report confirms what many of our families have already experienced firsthand: The cost of living in Santa Cruz County is only continuing to increase.

Santa Cruz County is now the second-least affordable rental market in the nation, behind only San Francisco, according to a report released this week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.   

Housing costs are deeply intertwined with public education. Many of our teachers and support staff struggle to live – and stay – within Santa Cruz County due to the high cost of housing. And because of California’s idiosyncratic approach to funding public education, starting with Proposition 13, an expensive rental market does not always translate to more funding to pay our educators the wages they deserve.

Housing costs are also prohibitive for many of our families, contributing to declining enrollment rates in Santa Cruz County and other expensive coastal communities as some families are simply priced out. Housing costs contribute to what we anticipate could be an additional 20% decrease in school enrollment over the next 5 to 10 years.

Many are committed to solutions, from the Housing Santa Cruz County coalition to affordable housing nonprofits, Habitat for Humanity, local school districts, and our local and state lawmakers. The Santa Cruz City Schools district is working toward workforce housing, and several other local districts are exploring similar programs. The COE and the majority of local districts also partner with Landed to offer our staff the option of a shared-equity approach to purchasing an otherwise unaffordable home. So far we’ve seen modest but promising results: 40 homes have been purchased through the program since 2017, the vast majority by teachers, counselors, and other frontline school staff. 

While I have no doubt we’ll keep making strides, there are no quick fixes here. The housing crisis is going to continue to impact education, and almost every other facet of our community, for many years to come. To address it, we’ll need to invest more in education, particularly increasing pay for teachers and other educators, and find creative ways to build affordable housing.

Yours in education and equity,
Dr. Faris Sabbah
County Superintendent of Schools