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Funding Educators: The Money and Organizations Keeping Roofs over Teachers’ Heads

Published on: January 2nd, 2020

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Hundreds of public school teachers swarmed the Colorado state Capitol to demand better salaries.

Teachers help our children acquire important knowledge, develop powerful thinking skills, and attain the talents required to excel at a craft and achieve professional success.  However, the pay that our government provides for the teachers of our children is disproportionately inadequate for the magnitude of the position. Though this is a nationwide issue, in Colorado this problem of teachers earning insufficient salaries has reached crisis levels and has inflicted the state with many severe problems.  

Currently, Colorado is ranked among the lowest states in the nation regarding the funding for our schools and the salaries for our teachers.  Many factors have contributed to this trend, including policies that limit state funding capabilities, restrictions on local tax mechanisms, and decisions of voters to reject ballot measures that could modify state tax rates to increase public school funding.  Many factors have required our teachers to work while earning insufficient salaries. But the challenges teachers face have recently been exasperated by the soaring housing prices throughout the state forcing teachers to manage the devastating combination of earning minimal salaries while paying exorbitant housing costs.  Now the ramifications for this detrimental problem have intensified as educators are struggling to find affordable housing, districts are having trouble recruiting and retaining exceptional educators, schools are desperately trying to overcome drastic teacher shortages, and communities are scrambling to develop methods that would enable their teachers to live in the area and enjoy adequate living conditions.

Some organizations are attempting to alleviate the issue by helping the educators attain affordable housing options in the areas where they teach.  The company Landed is a prominent organization that is performing this heroic and benevolent feat for our teachers and communities. Landed began in the California Bay Area in 2015, where the stresses of low-paid teachers trying to afford reasonable housing has been a significant challenge for the region.  But now Colorado is confronted with the same issue, and in 2018 the company opened an office in Denver to offer the same services for our teachers.

”Landed is on a mission to help education professionals build financial security near the communities they serve,” said Landed’s Colorado Regional Organizing lead Paula Davis.  After working as a middle school teacher at the Logan School in Denver and then as a fellow for the Donnell-Kay Foundation, Paula Davis saw a pressing need that led her to take the helm of Landed’s Colorado branch.

“The Donnell-Kay Foundation was trying to recruit more teachers of color for Denver,” said Davis, “but one of the things we were hearing from candidates was that they were only going to make a limited amount and couldn’t live in Denver on that salary. And so we realized that the challenge with the cost of housing was a real obstacle to recruiting and retaining teachers.”

This encouraged Davis to conduct extensive research regarding the financial struggles that are confronting school teachers and the possible methods that can help them purchase homes.

“While researching at Donnell-Kay I heard about Landed,” said Davis.  “We started bringing Landed out to Colorado and having conversations with the philanthropic and education communities to see if there was a match.  There definitely was a match, and so Landed first launched in Colorado in April of 2018, and that’s when I joined the team to be the person on the ground helping Landed expand here.”

Landed provides many services to assist teachers and schools.  The company offers Colorado public education employees in the Denver and Boulder areas a team of agents, advanced resources, educational materials, and a generous down payment assistance program that can help the teachers afford more options and purchase homes.  

“The down payment program that we offer makes the biggest difference for educators in places where the costs of housing is outpacing what educators make with their salaries,” explained Davis.  “The challenge of saving up enough money for a substantial down payment is where a lot of the challenge lies for educators, and so the down payment assistance is a really helpful tool in places like Denver or Boulder where the housing stock prices are so far out of reach.” 

This is a crucial service for Colorado, as the low salaries and high mortgages for teachers impacts many aspects of the state.  The problem hampers the lives of our teachers, diminishes the quality of our schools, and impairs the conditions of our communities.  Although Landed cannot singlehandedly raise the salaries of teachers, they are using their services to relieve the stresses experienced by the teachers and to minimize the damage felt by the state.  For instance, helping educators purchase homes in their districts can enable teachers to enjoy comfortable living conditions while also allowing schools to more effectively recruit and retain exceptional teachers.  Additionally, alleviating this problem can also permit communities to benefit from having improved schools for their children and financially stable residents for their businesses.

“We use housing as a way for educators to build financial footing, stability, and security so they can commit to their communities and their professions,” said Davis.  “Homeownership is the main way people build wealth and enjoy that sense of stability of putting roots down in the community and being a homeowner in the neighborhood.”

Landed has already achieved immense success in Colorado by assisting teachers during the home buying process and by helping them meet the down payment requirements.  

“We’ve formed partnerships with 14 school districts throughout the Denver and Boulder metro areas, and we’ve helped just over 50 educators purchase their homes,” said Davis.  “The external reward of seeing the educators that we’ve helped enter their homes and achieve a goal that seemed out of reach makes it very worthwhile. Then I’ve also enjoyed the internal reward of being part of a company that is committed to helping educators, that believes in our values, and that is truly supportive of one another and the work that we do.”

But before elaborating on the work of Landed and the details of their services, it can help to first identify the reasons why Landed is so direly needed and incredibly important here in Colorado.  Coloradans would benefit from understanding the different factors that have caused the teacher problem, the negative consequences this issue has facilitated in our communities, and the effective strategies that organizations such as Landed are implementing to assist the teachers and improve our schools. 

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Bottom of the Pack: Low Funding for Public Schools

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Landed are using their services to relieve the stresses experienced by teachers.

The lack of school funding is a significant factor that has resulted in Colorado teachers being so drastically underpaid.  With Colorado often perceived as an increasingly progressive state, it might surprise people to learn that our state is ranked towards the very bottom of the list regarding the funding of public schools.  The most recent 2018 data released by the US Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics showed that Colorado ranks 42nd in per-pupil-funding — Colorado pays $2,700 less per student than the national average.  Even worse, the state ranks 47th in public school funding based on the level of income earned by residents and the amount of funds allocated for schools.  

Colorado also failed to increase spending on schools to match the recent increase in students.  The population influx that the state has absorbed over the last decade naturally increased the number of students studying in our schools.  Between 2016-2017, the Colorado School Finance Report demonstrated that the state public school system added 9,000 new students and that the amount of funds funneled to the schools remained stagnant. 

Many state lawmakers, education professionals, and regular citizens have vocalized their grievances regarding the severe lack of funding for our public schools and have advocated to allocate more money towards the education system. 

The Colorado Education Association has been an essential leader in the effort to correct this shortcoming and increase school funding.   As the largest union in the state, the CEA has over 38,000 members that include teachers, administrators, social workers, school nurses, and bus drivers.

“We advocate on behalf of our education professionals to ensure that every child in Colorado has access to a great public school,” said CEA President Amie Baca-Oehlert.  “We want to make sure our educators have quality working conditions because that means our students have access to quality learning conditions. The CEA enables our educators to use our collective voice, power, and influence to address the needs of our workspaces and classrooms.”

While the CEA performs a plethora of important services for educators in Colorado, the lack of school funding has been a significant problem that the organization has been attempting to solve.

“The lack of funding has a real impact on the educational experiences of the students in our schools,” said Baca-Oehlert.  “With us being $2,700 below the national average for per-pupil funding, students in other states are having a vastly different experience than the students in Colorado.”

Many detrimental Colorado policies have contributed to the teacher crisis by reducing the funding we provide for our schools and by obstructing attempts to fix the problem.  Like most states, Colorado’s public school system is primarily funded at the local and state levels, and key policies are substantially limiting the amount of money that both levels can allocate to schools.  

Local funding for public schools has been diminished by the Gallagher Amendment.  Property taxes constitute the vast majority of the revenue that can be collected by local governments and school districts.  With the recent population growth and housing boom occurring in Colorado, the values of residential homes have skyrocketed and the amount of property taxes collected by districts should have also soared.  But the Gallagher Amendment prevents this opportunity from actualizing. Passed in 1982 by Colorado voters, the policy requires local governments to equalize the ratio of revenue collected by residential and business property taxes so that neither type of property is providing significantly more tax revenue than the other.  Despite the rapid population growth and house-value spike, the tax assessment rate for homes in Colorado has decreased by two-thirds to pull the revenue level from residential properties down to the much lower level of business properties. As a result, the Gallagher Amendment is preventing local governments from capitalizing on the housing boom, reducing the amount of tax revenue they can collect from residential properties, and minimizing the total funds they can distribute to schools.

This leaves many areas relying on the state government to boost their school funding capabilities.  But Colorado is significantly impacted by TABOR, a policy that is known as the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” and that is not used by any other state.  Passed in 1992, two of the main aspects of the TABOR policy reduce the amount of revenue that is available to the state and provided to the schools.  

The spending cap aspect is especially detrimental.  TABOR establishes a strict limit regarding how much the state can spend in its budget each year, and any revenue that surpasses the spending cap cannot be used to fund state projects and must instead be refunded to the voters.  As a result, the spending cap of TABOR prevents the state government from being able to use excess revenue to fund our education system and instead requires the state to refund that extra revenue to the residents. This has led to a frustrating dilemma in which Colorado does have enough money to increase the funding that the state provides for schools and the salaries that districts offer for teachers. 

“The spending cap has limited our ability to provide a world-class education for the students in Colorado,” lamented Baca-Oehlert.  “Instead of being able to use that revenue that’s already generated and that the state should be able to keep, we’re seeing it go back in small increments to voters as a tax refund.  Over the last decade, that’s come out to over $8 billion that we haven’t been able to provide as a state for our public schools.”

The taxation vote requirements of TABOR have also hindered the state from increasing the funding of our schools.  A significant aspect of TABOR is that it prohibits lawmakers from raising any taxes without first having the tax increase placed on a ballot and approved by the voters.  This is where the Colorado voters have been contributing to the funding deficiencies. In the recent election cycles, multiple statewide initiatives were placed on the ballots that would have modified the state tax code to direct more money towards our public schools.  But the voters rejected all of the recent proposals. 

Amendment 73 was placed on the statewide ballot during the 2018 midterm election cycle.  Rather than a flat income tax rate of 4.63 percent, the measure would have raised taxes on wealthy Colorado residents up to 5-8 percent so the state could specifically allocate the extra revenue to K-12 public schools.  The higher taxes paid by the wealthy residents would have been minimal, and the increased revenue generated for the public schools would have been substantial. But the voters rejected the measure and Amendment 73 was defeated.

Then Prop CC was placed on the ballot in the most recent 2019 cycle.  This proposition would have overturned the spending cap and refund requirement of TABOR by instead allowing the state government to spend that excess revenue on education funding and transportation projects.  It would have allowed the state to retain more revenue and increase school funding, but again the voters rejected the bill and Prop CC was also defeated.  

The CEA has been working hard to educate voters about the destructive impact TABOR asserts on the funding of our schools and the education of our students.

“People all around the state see the need to invest in our students and educators,” said Baca-Oehlert.  “I understand that TABOR is complex, so it’s incumbent on us to tell this story and explain how these votes are leading to the underfunding of our schools.  We need to make sure voters are informed, that they understand the issue, and then the voters bear a big responsibility to say yes to our students and our schools.”

Thus, Colorado is the only state in the nation with the spending cap and taxation vote requirements, and both elements of TABOR have been restrictive and regressive for our public schools.  

The low funding of our schools precipitates several problems for our communities.  Many school districts bemoan that their schools lack adequate resources. Some schools are hampered by dilapidated facilities, overcrowded classrooms, outdated equipment, inferior resources, and scarce textbooks.  

Some districts have compensated for the lack of funding by cutting essential programs that all schools should provide for their students.  “We have many students without access to mental health support,” said Baca-Oehlert, “and we also have many students who have lost access to a well-rounded curriculum with art, music, PE, and important electives.”

This is detrimental for the students and our communities.  All communities must provide a high-quality education system so the young residents can develop and thrive as brilliant thinkers, creative innovators, and exceptional workers.  But with Colorado failing to provide adequate funding, many communities are frustrated about the diminished quality of their schools and many districts are passing the financial burden onto the teachers.  

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Teachers Getting the Shaft: Low Salaries for a Crucial Job

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Colorado is the only state with the spending cap and taxation vote requirements.

A significant consequence of Colorado’s poor education funding is that our districts are paying teachers devastatingly low salaries.  Districts typically establish the compensation details for teachers in the schools. But the districts in Colorado often have a limited pool of funds available to them and must fulfill many expenses that are essential to the schools, including expenses for educational facilities, administrative functions, and classroom equipment.  With limited funds and numerous expenses, many districts are currently squeezed regarding the amount of funds that they can provide for their teachers. Although some teachers contend that the districts can reduce the amount that they spend on administrative functions and designate a more proportional amount for teacher salaries, school districts usually assert that the salaries they can pay are hindered by limited funds and budgetary constraints.  As a result, the low funding allocated to districts has drastically reduced the salaries that are paid to our teachers.

The CEA recently published a Colorado State of Education Report that expounded on the insufficient salaries being paid for our Colorado teachers.  The report serves to alert Colorado lawmakers and residents regarding the crisis that this problem is causing for the living conditions of our teachers, the overall quality of our schools, and the educational experience for our students.

Colorado ranks among the worst in the nation regarding teacher salaries.  Though many teachers throughout the US are underpaid, this problem is especially bad in Colorado.  A study conducted by the Education Policy Center determined that Colorado is last in the nation regarding the competitiveness of teacher pay, a category that considers the average salaries of teachers compared to the average salaries of their non-teacher counterparts.  Additionally, another study conducted by WalletHub and published in the World Population Review established that Colorado teacher salaries were ranked 47th in the nation when adjusted to accommodate the average cost of living. Not only are Colorado teachers paid lower than most other states, but the high cost of living further reduces the actual value of their salaries.  

The average pay for teachers in Colorado is far below the national average.  The average teacher salary in the United States is approximately $60,000 per year, and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) data shows that the average salary for Colorado teachers is only about $52,000.  While that already seems to be an insufficient level of compensation for the noble profession of educating our children, many teachers in the state are making far below this humble mark.

Teachers in rural communities are unfortunately burdened by abysmal salaries. The rural areas of Colorado have been especially impacted by the low funding for schools and have needed to adjust by paying their teachers minimal annual salaries.  In turn, the average salary for teachers in rural districts is typically around $30,000, and a report conducted by the CDE indicates that the salaries for 95 percent of teachers in rural districts are below the cost of living in the given areas.

The situation is not much better in the suburbs.  Most suburban districts also pay salaries that are beneath the national average and that are incompatible with the cost of living.  According to the CDE, the average teacher’s salary for Brighton and Thornton is about $48,000, Colorado Springs’ is also an average of $48,000, and Douglas County teachers are earning an average salary of $53,000.  Additionally, the teachers working in the elevated mountain towns are making relatively low salaries, as the average salary in the Summit County School District is $56,000 and teachers in the Aspen School District earn an average of $58,000. 

The state is also not pampering teachers in the major city of Denver.  On the contrary, Denver is ranked second-worst in the nation regarding the salaries of teachers compared to the cost of living.  Denver teachers earn an average salary of just $50,000, and a study from the Donnell-Kay Foundation illustrates that this salary is grossly inadequate for the expensive living costs in Denver and that only 5 percent of Denver teachers can actually afford to buy a home in the city.

The Boulder Valley and Cherry Creek School Districts pay their teachers more than any other districts in Colorado, as the average salary in CCSD is $71,000, and BVSD pays its teachers the highest average salary in the state at the $75,000 mark.

The Boulder Valley School District can pay higher salaries mainly because of a beneficial mill levy override policy.  Mill levy overrides provide districts with the ability to increase property taxes and direct the added revenue for essential school expenses.  With local governments and school districts acquiring the majority of revenue from property taxes, mill levy overrides can significantly enhance school funding for a district.  Although the majority of districts in Colorado do not utilize mill levy overrides, districts that do tend to generate more revenue for their schools and pay higher salaries for their teachers.

Although teachers in BVSD are paid more than in other districts, many of them are still struggling because the salaries fail to keep up with the expensive costs of housing in the area.  Boulder is experiencing a housing boom in which the prices for rent and mortgages have increased exponentially in the recent decade, which has challenged Boulder and its surrounding suburbs with the conflict of not having enough affordable homes for middle income workers such as police officers, firefighters, and especially teachers.  As a result, Boulder teachers are still not paid enough to compensate for the high cost of living in the region or to purchase homes in the communities where they work.

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The Housing Crisis: A Devastating Two-Punch Combo for Teachers

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The average teacher’s salary has not increased to match costs of housing.

Teachers throughout Colorado are encountering this two-punch combination of receiving insufficient salaries while needing to pay exorbitant housing costs.  In the recent decade Colorado has experienced an economic boom that was stimulated by many flourishing business industries and a rapid population increase. This caused a supply and demand effect in which the small amount of available units and the high demand for housing caused the prices for renters and owners to skyrocket.  Though having an economic surge and housing boom is a positive circumstance, the boom facilitated the unintended consequence of communities having a drastic lack of affordable houses and an abundance of cost-burdened residents.

The affordable housing crisis has hit teachers especially hard.  The average salary of teachers has not increased over the recent decade to match the increased costs of housing, which has forced many of them to incur the devastating blow of making minimal salaries while struggling to afford homes.  

Many teachers have implemented desperate measures to handle this two-punch combo. A report compiled by the Center for American Progress asserted that 22 percent of Colorado teachers have to work second jobs to remain stable. Many other teachers have been living with roommates, taking out loans, and budgeting their month-to-month incomes as tightly as possible.  

“We have more and more teachers needing to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet for their own children,” explained Baca-Oehlert.  “We also have more teachers whose own children qualify for and receive free lunches, and we’ve been hearing from teachers who are literally living in their cars just to teach children, which is an unbelievable circumstance for a state that has the strongest economy in the country and for people who are doing the greatest service for our students.”

Others choose to live in remote areas where the housing costs are more affordable than the areas in which they work.  But this is also a detrimental solution for everybody. Providing conditions in which teachers must drive long-distances to work subjects the educators to inconvenient and expensive travel needs, amplifies the traffic congestions that drivers encounter on the roadways, and increases the carbon gases that Colorado emits into the environment.  

Some teachers endure the problem by simply living where they work while remaining cost-burdened.  Cost-burden refers to residents who pay over 30 percent of their income on housing costs, and the majority of teachers in Colorado are classified as cost-burdened.  For instance, many education professionals pay the overwhelming majority of their modest salaries on housing costs and then have a minimal amount remaining for monthly expenses, extra purchases, or savings accounts.  Additionally, the concept of cost-burdened teachers harms the businesses in the communities, as the teachers living right by their shops do not have the disposable income needed to purchase their products, utilize their services, and support their companies.  

This cost-burden issue is especially relevant in the Front Range.  The average home price in the city of Boulder is about $751,000, and a CNBC study shows that approximately $120,000 would be required to purchase a home at that price.  This establishes Boulder as the most expensive place to live in Colorado and the 6th most expensive city in the nation. 

The many suburbs surrounding Boulder also feature expensive homes prices.  For instance, most suburbs in Boulder County have seen their home values rise substantially in the recent decade, the median price for a home throughout BOCO is now $543,00, and this would require a buyer to earn a salary of around $100,000 per year.

With teachers working in BVSD earning $75,000 as an average salary, many of the teachers are working in communities where they cannot afford to purchase a home, raise a family, and remain financially stable.  For the teachers that do purchase homes in the BOCO communities, many of them are cost-burdened by the excessive housing costs and by their insufficient teacher salaries.

This is the crux of the problem that teachers in Colorado face.  Many educators in the state earn insufficient salaries, pay exorbitant housing costs, and are forced to decide whether to purchase a home and remain cost-burdened or move to areas where the pay is more lucrative and the housing more affordable.

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The Consequences: Teachers Fleeing to Greener Pastures

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Helping teachers buy homes can substantially reduce attrition and turnover rates.

Many teachers solve the problem by leaving their districts or avoiding certain schools.  This has instigated a pattern in which districts and schools in Colorado have been struggling to recruit and retain great teachers.  The end result of this harmful formula is that Colorado is suffering from a severe teacher shortage.  

Several factors discourage teachers from joining certain districts or motivate them to leave their current schools.  However, the CDE contends that low compensation is a primary factor that has been hindering schools from recruiting teachers and exacerbating the shortage in Colorado.  As a result, shortages in many areas have been caused or magnified by the low salaries the teachers would earn for their services and by the high costs they would pay for their homes.  Additionally, fewer Colorado students are graduating in education programs or receiving teaching licenses, and numerous studies suggest that this downward trend is primarily facilitated by the negative stigmas of the occupation and its low salaries.

“We’re seeing the toll the low salaries are taking with the teacher shortages,” lamented Baca-Oehlert.  “We’re seeing it with people leaving the profession prematurely to do something different, or not even coming into the profession at all because the salaries aren’t matching the high costs of living. When you combine the salaries with the housing costs, it’s all culminating with the teacher shortages bringing us to a crisis, and this is detrimental to the childrens’ learning experience.”

  The CDE conducted a comprehensive survey in 2017 to evaluate the scope of teacher shortages in different types of school districts.  

The results indicate that fewer teacher candidates are applying for open positions.  According to the survey, 81 percent of city/suburb school districts received fewer applications from licensed teachers than the year prior, and 85 percent of rural school districts had fewer applicants than the previous year as well.

Schools also struggle to fill open vacancies with licensed teachers.  The same survey demonstrated that 81 percent of city/suburb districts and 60 percent of rural districts were unable to fill available positions.  

Having emergency teachers fill vacancies has been a troubling solution to the shortage.  When districts are desperate to fill vacant positions but are unable to find qualified teachers, the state can issue emergency permits that allow the districts to fill the positions with unlicensed candidates who can fill the vacancies on a temporary basis.  An overwhelming majority of school districts in Colorado have been resorting to the use of emergency candidates. According to the CDE survey, 77 percent of city/suburb districts needed to hire emergency candidates, and 62 percent of rural districts also needed to fill open vacancies with emergency candidates.

This teacher shortage issue has a devastating impact on the quality of the schools and the performances of the students.  

The lack of exceptional teachers is a big problem facilitated by teacher shortages.  For instance, the use of emergency teachers or oversized classrooms provides a disservice to the students and the community.  In the contentious workforce, Colorado depends on providing students with a great education so they can fulfill their potential for greatness, excel at their chosen crafts, and contribute their innovative ideas or skills to our communities.  But stuffing students into jam-packed classrooms or having unqualified emergency candidates teach the material significantly diminishes their ability to receive a high-quality education or thrive in the competitive workforce. 

This hazard is reflected in many studies focusing on the connection between teacher shortages and student performance.  For instance, the CEA State of Education Report emphasized the negative impact that teacher shortages have on the performance of students in the areas.  The report asserts that having experienced, high-quality teachers is the most important factor that can lead to positive student outcomes. In contrast, high turnover rates and unqualified teachers substantially reduce student achievement regarding test scores, class grades, and graduation rates.  Additionally, overburdening teachers with massive classroom sizes further reduces their ability to devote adequate attention to each student and to maximize the efficacy of their lessons.

“One of the most devastating things we’ve seen with the significant decline in the number of people going into the teaching profession is the major impact on students,” explained Baca-Oehlert.  “We know that students need to have access to the most high-quality, passionate, dedicated, and committed educators. We also know that stability and relationships matter. Teachers get to know a child, they find their interests, they find out what excites them, and then they tap into that to get them to thrive and achieve.  And when you don’t have an adequate number of people to do that, or if teachers are coming and going, that’s not going to happen. The reality is that people just cannot make a living on an educators’ salary, and so that’s translated into people leaving their districts, leaving the profession, and the losers in that situation are the students.”

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Landed: Putting on a Cape to Lift Up the Teachers

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Landed has helped numerous teachers make down payments and purchase homes.

This is why the solution offered by Landed is so crucial in Colorado.  Although Colorado must still attempt to increase the salaries that are paid for its teachers, in the meantime helping teachers purchase homes and enjoy comfortable living conditions with their current salaries provides many benefits for all parties involved.  Helping teachers purchase homes can enable them to work in various districts, live in the given communities, and obtain the financial comfort and domestic stability required to make important purchases and build padded savings accounts.

“Having an improved quality of life for our educators is an important goal, but it also translates into their ability to do their work well,” said Landed’s Colorado Organizer Paula Davis.  “Living close to where you work and becoming connected to the communities is a major benefit, and we’re excited to help teachers become homeowners and nail down those roots.” 

Landed is lauded by school districts that are challenged by teacher shortages and that appreciate the service the company gives.  Helping teachers buy homes in their districts can substantially reduce attrition or turnover rates, improve the ability for districts to retain their exceptional teachers, and enhance the student achievement levels of their schools.

“A lot of research has confirmed that the teacher shortages have a negative impact on the child’s education,” explained Davis, “and so part of our goal is to help educators avoid that tough question of wanting to be homeowners but thinking they would have to change jobs or change cities to do so.”

Landed can also help districts attract great teachers to move to their communities and work in their schools.

“Many school districts view Landed as a tool that can help them better recruit educators,“ said Davis.  “If they’re seeing candidates coming from other cities or even out of state, the districts can use Landed as a perk by informing the teachers that working there can allow them to use our home buying support and down payment services.”

Landed is currently helping many teachers live and work in the Denver metro and Boulder metro areas.  The company has established partnerships with 14 districts, including Denver Public Schools, Boulder Valley School District, Aurora Public Schools, Adams 12, and Littleton Public Schools.

These partnerships help Landed by enabling the districts to market their company and promote their services.

“The main way the vast majority of homebuyers have heard about Landed is through their employer,” said Davis.  “We partner with districts or colleges so they can get the word out to their employees and send emails to their staff to let them know that Landed is a tool they have access to if they want to buy a home.”

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The Valuable Services Helping Teachers Land Homes

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Landed uses many efficacious strategies to help education professionals purchase homes and live near their schools.  But the three services most commonly provided by Landed and enjoyed by customers include the home buying team, educational resources, and down payment assistance program. 

The Landed home buying team and agent network is highly beneficial for educators preparing to embark on the difficult and arduous mission of purchasing a home. 

“The home buying experience can be very overwhelming,” explained Davis.  “You have a lot of people involved with the communication, including real estate agents, loan officers, and  listing agents.” 

But Landed can provide this entire home buying team for public school professionals.  “We get a whole team built around you that’s in sync while communicating and collaborating with one another,” said Davis. “Having an entire team in your corner and advocating for you can make the process a lot less daunting, and so we’ve cultivated a network of participating lenders and real estate agents who are great at working with educators as homebuyers and who are also committed to our mission.”

The educational resources generated by Landed can also be very helpful for homebuyers.  Whereas the technical terms and key concepts used by the real estate and financial industries can be intimidating to regular homebuyers, Landed provides educational materials to help clarify the terms and explain the concepts that accompany the process.

“We developed online resources with easy-to-understand infographics and approachable human language to demystify the process,” explained Davis.  “This helps educators understand key home buying concepts, such as debt-to-income ratio, closing costs, questions to ask loan officers, and questions to ask agents.  We also have webinars where previous Landed homebuyers talk about their experiences, and we always have Landed team members ready to take any calls and answer any questions that buyers might have.”

Though these free services are advantageous, Landed’s down payment assistance program is essential for teachers attempting to buy a home.

Many teachers relish the terms of the Landed down payment assistance program.  The organization can pay up to 50 percent of the down payment, and so if the cost is $100,000 the organization will provide a $50,000 payment.  Landed also typically prefers to help the teachers get the down payment to 20 percent because of the advantages that homebuyers can attain from reaching that favorable mark.

“While you don’t always need to put down 20 percent to buy a home,” said Davis, “there are a lot of benefits to getting up to that 20 percent threshold, including smaller mortgages, smaller monthly payments, no private mortgage insurance, and having a much more competitive offer.”

The typical formula then is to have the homebuyer make 10 percent of the down payment, and then Landed provides the additional 10 percent to meet that threshold.  After the down payment is made, Landed does not require any monthly payments and the assistance is instead viewed as a shared investment.

“The money Landed invests alongside educators to get them up to that 20 percent down payment doesn’t come in the form of a loan, and so it doesn’t count against you as debt, and there’s no set interest rate or monthly payments,” expounded Davis.  “It’s a shared investment, which means we get the educators up to the 20 percent down payment, they buy the home, they own it, they live in it, and they have up to 30 years to end the partnership with Landed by either selling the home or buying out our investment.”  

Landed then accrues a modest profit on the increased value of your home. At the end of the 30 year term or when the homeowner decides to end the partnership, the customer pays Landed the total amount of the initial down payment support and then a percentage of the value change of the home. When you sell the home or buyout the investment, the home likely experienced an increase in value. The Landed organization charges 25 percent of the value increase, or 25 percent of that extra profit the homeowner made from the value increasing over the years. The organization then uses that 25 percent fee to assist more school teachers and pay for future investments. Additionally, if for some reason the home depreciates in value or decreases in price, Landed is willing to simply absorb the loss and relinquish the fees.

“It’s a true partnership in that if the house goes up in value the educator wins and a percentage of that appreciation goes to Landed,” said Davis. “If the value of the home happens to go down, Landed shares in that downside as well.  But if the value of the home increases when the homebuyer ends the partnership, Landed would get a percentage of that value-increase and then put it directly into our fund to help more educators purchase homes in the future.”

Working in the given public school district is the only requirement that teachers must fulfill to use the down payment assistance program.  For instance, Landed requires that the educators remain in the same district or work with the same employer for at least two years after purchasing the home.  This achieves an important goal, for a primary function of Landed is to help educators live in the districts where they work and enable schools to retain the teachers that they hire. 

“We see Landed as a creative tool to help recruit and retain good educators in communities,” explained Davis. “So we ask the educators who use Landed’s down payment program to make a commitment to stay with their current employer for at least two years.  It doesn’t have to be the same role or school, but if you work for a certain district we ask that you commit to keep working with the district for an additional two years after buying a home with Landed.”

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Landing in the Boulder Valley School District

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Many teachers in the Boulder Valley School District have already benefited from the services of Landed.  Teachers who work in BVSD are often hindered by the expensive prices of the homes and by the difficulties of making the down payments.  However, Landed has helped an abundance of teachers make down payments and purchase homes in Boulder and its surrounding suburbs.

“When we first introduced this concept to the administrators at the Boulder Valley School District, they were keen on launching with us as soon as possible because the vast majority of staff for BVSD live not only outside of Boulder the city, but outside of Boulder County,” said Davis.  “Considering how far away their employees are living, it was a major priority for them to provide some support for what their staff has identified as a major challenge. So we launched with the Boulder Valley School District about a year ago, and we’ve already helped about a half-dozen BVSD educators buy homes.  Many of them used the down payment program to move closer to the districts they serve, others wanted to ensure their own children can attend BVSD schools, and so Landed has been a big success in Boulder with many teachers using our down payment program to purchase homes in the district.”

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Reaping the Rewards of their Investments 

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The overall results for Landed have been remarkable.  They have helped teachers purchase dream homes, districts retain great teachers, and communities enjoy having high-quality schools for their students and financially comfortable teachers in their neighborhoods.  Thus, the grateful response that Landed garners from the teachers and districts has been a tremendous reward for the admirable work and positive results perpetuated by their Colorado team.

“The teachers and districts have been very appreciative, and helping them has been the best part of this experience” reflected Davis.  “Being a teacher is a stressful, high-stakes, and important job. And so the biggest piece that sticks with me is when people are relieved that we were able to take this one piece of stress off of their plates and let them feel confident that they’re being supported, that they’re being well-represented, and that our Landed team is really in their corner to get the housing piece of their life figured out.  All of this feels very rewarding when the teachers express that kind of sentiment about achieving their housing needs and when the districts also benefit from us supporting their schools and their staff.”

Other Colorado Organizations Helping Teachers Buy Homes

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Rural and Mountain

  • Though Landed is especially ideal for teachers in the Front Range, Denver, and Boulder areas, many organizations are available to help teachers buy homes in the mountain towns or rural communities as well.  

US Department of Housing (HUD) Programs for Colorado

  • Good Neighbors Next Door Program: HUD offers affordable houses in Colorado listed only on their platform at a 50% discount. K-12 teachers can apply to purchase the given houses, and then the educators must agree to live in the home for at least 36 months.
  • Teachers Next Door Program: Offers various forms of assistance for teachers trying to buy homes, including financial grants, down payment assistance of $10,000, and free house appraisals and home buyer representation.

Colorado Housing and Financing Authority (CHFA)

  • CHFA offers loan programs for teachers moving in Colorado to work in new districts, including affordable rates, cost support, down payment assistance, and flexible programs conducive for different buyers and circumstances.

CU Professors

  • The University of Colorado offers college professors on their Boulder campus assistance for their home purchases.

Local Governments

  • Some municipalities or counties offer assistance and discounts for teachers who work in their schools and want to live in their communities.

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