Can first responders and educators afford to live where they serve?

It depends on where they serve. According to ValueInsured’s Modern Homebuyer Survey conducted in Q3 2018, nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) urban homeowners in America today do not expect their local firefighters and teachers to be able to afford to buy a home near where they serve.

The National Council on Teacher Quality found last year that in some of the country’s most expensive real estate markets, for example Fairfax County, VA or Oakland and San Francisco, CA, rising local home prices mean it would take a teacher over 20 years to save enough for a down payment to buy a home near where he or she teaches. Some of the most affordable school districts where teachers can afford home are in Texas, including in San Antonio, Arlington, and Fort Worth, where roughly five years of a teacher’s salary would be enough for a down payment.

According to Trulia, police and firefighters can only afford to buy 2% of all listed homes in San Francisco, while teachers in the area can choose freely from less than 0.4% of listed homes. Moving away from the infamously expensive west coast city, the picture is not much rosier: first responders and teachers can afford less than 20% of homes listed for sale in Raleigh, NC and Madison, WI.

And don’t think typically higher earners like doctors would easily sail into homeownership. Doctors can afford 42% of all listed homes for sale in San Francisco. Guess how many homes in San Francisco are within reach of restaurant workers who wish to become homeowners? Zero. In another study of software engineers including those employed by Apple, Facebook and Google, 59% of those surveyed said they could not afford to buy a home near where they work.

Back to ValueInsured’s survey, not surprisingly, 80% of Californians believe first responders and teachers in their area cannot afford to own a home near the community they serve. In Texas, 67% believe the same, as do 63% of homeowners in Washington State, and 60% in Colorado. Overall, 6 in 10 Americans believe local firefighters and teachers cannot afford to buy a home in their area.

This is of course not always the case. According to Curbed, teachers in the 1950’s could easily afford a home near where they worked in San Francisco. Sadly, as home prices continue to rise at an exceedingly accelerated rate compared to wage growth, first responders and educators who dedicate their lives to their community no longer find they can make a home there.