L.A. to Issue Bonds to Help Teachers Buy Homes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to provide incentives to improve education, the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to issue $15 million in bonds to help 100 teachers at low-performing schools buy homes.

The Extra-Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program will provide up to $7,500 in forgivable loans to go toward down payments for credentialed teachers who work at low-performing schools and agree to buy a home in Los Angeles.

"It's an excellent program. We need teachers all over the inner city," said Councilman Nate Holden, a member of the council's Housing and Community Redevelopment Committee.

The program originated with the state and has been embraced in Los Angeles, where high home costs are a major obstacle to teachers.

"Very few teachers that get credentials remain in Los Angeles, and I think the reason has been, in large measure, the cost of housing," said Day Higuchi, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles.

The reason most often cited by teachers who quit their jobs is that they are moving out of Los Angeles, an explanation that Higuchi says is another way of saying they cannot afford housing here.

Fully credentialed, starting teachers earn $39,900 a year in the L.A. Unified School District, which is not enough in many cases to afford a house in Los Angeles, where the median price for a house is $225,000.

Under the program, the $7,500 loan for the down payment will be forgiven at the rate of $1,500 for each year the teacher works at a qualifying school. The program also provides other financial assistance that would allow private lenders to drop the interest rate by about 1%.

To qualify, teachers must have incomes of less than $62,520 for households of one or two people, and $72,940 for households of three or more. They also must work at schools judged to be low-performing based on test scores.

About 70% of the schools in Los Angeles, from the San Fernando Valley to South-Central, qualify as low-performing, Higuchi said. These schools have a disproportionate share of teachers working under emergency credentials, Higuchi said. In South-Central, about 40% of teachers lack full credentials, he estimated.

The housing program will provide an incentive for some of the 9,000 teachers with emergency credentials to get full credentials, Higuchi predicted.

"The purpose of this is to encourage education and to bring in good, credentialed teachers to schools that need them," said Bobken Simonians, director of the city's Housing Development Division.

The city already is processing the first applications and hopes to approve the first loan for a teacher in the next month, Simonians said.

The City Council also approved $35 million in bonds for an ongoing home-ownership program for the general population of low-income residents in Los Angeles.

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