The Bulletin

In each of Virginia’s largest metro areas, more than 20% of teachers are burdened by housing costs

By: - May 10, 2019 4:33 am

Hundreds of teachers rallied after the Virginia Education Association’s Delegates Assembly in March in Richmond. Members were pushing for more education funding, especially for teacher salaries. (Mechelle Hankerson/ Virginia Mercury)

Teachers in Virginia’s largest metro areas have a higher cost burden for housing than the national average, according to an analysis of census data.

Apartment List, a website that helps people find rental homes, analyzed the cost of housing as it relates to teachers’ incomes the country’s 50-largest metro areas, which includes three of Virginia’s: Washington D.C.-Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.

“While teaching has long been a comparatively low-paying profession, rapid increases in housing costs have exacerbated the struggle of teachers,” the analysis started. “While rates of housing cost burden among teachers are lower than the national average, they are higher than that of other Americans with college degrees, and in certain parts of the country — particularly the nation’s high cost coastal metros —  teachers are especially strained.”

The company looked at teachers whose salary supplies more than 50 percent of a household’s income.

The analysis considered that teachers tend to make less than their college-educated peers. According to Apartment List, teachers in the Richmond metro area make 27 percent less than college-educated peers; Hampton Roads teachers make 24 percent less than their college-educated peers and teachers in Northern Virginia make 32 percent less than their peers.

Virginia lawmakers have tried to correct for teachers’ lagging salaries and approved a budget with money for teachers to get up to a 5 percent pay raise over two years. Part of that raise had already been approved and it will require localities to find matching funding.

Apartment List calculated how many people use 30 percent or more of their income toward rent.

In Richmond, 22 percent of teachers and 14 percent of non-teachers are cost-burdened; Twenty-six percent of teachers in Hampton Roads are cost-burdened compared to 18 percent of non-teachers; in D.C. and Northern Virginia, 28 percent of teachers are cost-burdened while 18 percent of non-teachers are.

Nationally, Apartment List calculated about 20 percent of teachers are burdened by their housing costs. In 1990, the company reported, the cost burden rate for teachers was 15 percent lower than that of other college-educated workers.

According to Apartment List, the D.C. metro area had one of the highest cost-burden rates in the country behind Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

“Nationally, one-in-five primary earner teachers are burdened by their housing costs, and in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, that figure is more than one-in-three,” the report concluded. “Widespread teacher strikes and rising attrition rates point to the difficulty of living comfortably on a teacher’s salary.”

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.