That's me on the right in the picture sitting next to the wonderful Dr. Angela Pruitt, Chief Human Resource Director for the Lee County School District. You'll see in the media links below that Allan Development Group has been the spearhead developer in proposing a solution for workforce housing, also called "attainable housing"
Workforce Housing should not be mentioned in the same sentence as Affordable Housing unless you are describing them as totally different spheres. Affordable Housing is defined by those who earn less than 80% of the Area Median Income. Workforce Housing is defined by those who earn between 80% and 120% of the Area Median Income.
In today's economic environment, Lee County is Top 5 in the country in economic and population growth. This is important because with the influx of new residents every year, apartment complexes will sustain high occupancy rates and while we don't know how much higher rent rates can get, they aren't expected to go lower anytime soon. In today's real estate environment, the workforce employees who earn $40,000 per year are priced out of most communities by 20-30%. This doesn't mean they don't rent these units. Some do, but at current market rates, that person is paying nearly 45% of their income to housing costs, which is 15% higher than what they should pay.
When I made my proposal to the School District in October 2016, I asked for a meeting with Dr. Adkins, the School District Superintendent. In those following meetings, I learned that since 2012, the School District has lost over 800 teachers in each of those years to turnover. Two of the top 3 reasons why teachers leave is because of extreme housing costs and undesirable living location. Of those 800 teachers, more than half of them are single by status, living on one income and 300 of them are single parents to make matters even more challenging.
The Workforce Housing crisis is two-fold. The most disturbing information to me was in a November meeting with the School District and some of their Chief of Staff. Since 2012, the School District has had turnover of over 800 teachers per year, a number likely getting worse in 2017. According to the 2016 Black Belt 20/20 Survey performed internally by the School District, two of the top reasons for turnover is 1) Can't afford housing; 2) Living Environment.
While a "teacher housing" development seems silly to some, many teachers have said they would strongly prefer living among other like-minded people such as teachers rather than living in rural areas where crime rates are higher and travel times to work become insane.
It was conveyed to me in the meeting that for every teacher turnover, the hard money cost to recruit, hire, and train a new teacher is AT LEAST $32,000. So for the last 5 years, the School District has lost $25,600,000 each year or $130,000,000 in 5 full years. Wow. Do you know who pays that? Taxpayers... and almost 99% of taxpayers don't have this information I just mentioned.
To say the very least, there is a glaring issue and one that is imminently getting worse. As soon as the public entities want to do something about it, they have the ability to. We are waiting on the call. We have reached out to several and have heard crickets.
Once we fix the attainable housing crisis, I can promise you that the people that teach our kids, protect our streets, and take care of the sick and injured will perform better at work, stay in their field, and create a positive vibe once again in their sector. Right now, it's not positive.