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New York plans affordable housing for teachers

Associated Press
Published October 14, 2007


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NEW YORK - Elementary school teacher Ramona Roman has a master's degree and earns $70,000 a year, but she's barely making it in New York City.

"I think I make a good salary, but it's so hard living here - I can't get a decent apartment with the money I make. You also need to eat! You need to feed your kids!" said the 52-year-old teacher, who supports two children and her mother.

Over the years, teachers in Roman's predicament have fled the city looking for affordable housing. Last year, about 4,000 teachers moved out, says Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

But teachers may soon have a new option: a 234-unit housing project being developed specifically for educators. It will be only a drop in the bucket for the nation's largest school system, with 80,000 teachers and 1.1-million students, but it's a start.

The project, backed with $28-million from the New York City Teachers' Retirement System, could become a model in other cities where soaring rents are forcing out essential workers like teachers, police and firefighters, observers say.

A New York teacher's salary starts at about $42,000, and at more than $2,000 a month, the average rent for even a studio apartment in the city eats up over half of it.

In the Bronx, the borough north of Manhattan where construction on the complex is expected to start later this fall, rents between $800 and $900 are considered affordable.

Rents in the two educators' buildings will range from $806 a month for a studio to $1,412 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The apartments will be open to teachers in public, private, parochial and charter schools, as well as administrators.

To be eligible for a lottery for an apartment, applicants cannot earn more than 110 percent of the area median income, which is $70,900 for a family of four and $49,630 for an individual.

John Crotty, an executive of a public housing finance group at the J.P. Morgan Chase bank, said he is looking to create other projects around the country using public pension funds for urban revitalization modeled on the Bronx experiment.

The number of working people in America who are paying 50 percent or more of their salaries for their housing is growing "to unsustainable numbers," Crotty said. The ideal ratio is no more than about 30 percent.

"It's important that people who work in cities get to live in them as well - that cities not become enclaves for the rich," Crotty said.

[Last modified October 14, 2007, 01:27:31]


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