Getting Schooled
Date: 07.18.2008
Publication: RE Business Online
Author: Cara Aliek

In 2001, Thompson | Dorfman completed Phase I of Casa del Maestro, the first faculty housing community built for a public school district in California. Santa Clara Unified School District, the district that commissioned the work, has been so impressed with the success of lowering their attrition rate, they recently broke ground on Phase II.

“It’s a great opportunity to give something back to the community. We started a non-profit (Education Housing Partners) to do this kind of work for school districts because we realized the importance of the public education system in the areas in which we’re developing,” said Bruce Dorfman, co-founder and principal with Thompson | Dorfman. The company primarily focuses on multifamily communities with mixed-use components and urban infill communities.

The idea for teacher housing came about after the district came to the Thompson | Dorfman in need of a solution to its rising attrition rate and high housing costs in the area. According to Dorfman, Santa Clara Unified School District is one of the larger districts located in Silicon Valley.

“The attrition rate for teachers with the same hiring date has been less than one-third of those who arent living in the communities. Affordable housing is a critical issue facing our public school systems, not only here in California, but throughout the country,” Dorfman said.

Phase I features 40 units and was built on surplus school property. The district structured an innovative tax-exempt financing instrument, which also allowed the project to be built and operated at no cost to taxpayers.

“There’s between 50 and 60 teachers currently living in Phase I. We have a Teacher’s Mortgage Assistance Program, or TMAP, also in place. Over 100 teachers out of a pool of maybe 700 are getting some benefit from a housing program through the school district,” Dorfman said.

Phase II of Casa del Maestro, Spanish for “house of the teacher,” will feature 30 units. The size in layouts of the residences will feature a variety of 18 one-bedroom units ranging in size from 702 to 787 square feet; six one-bedroom units with den units ranging from 829 to 1,029 square feet; and six two-bedroom, two bathroom units featuring 1,122 square feet of space.

Dorfman said while teacher housing makes up a small portion of what his company does, the support they receive is tremendous.

“Because you don’t get the commitment and support from the local jurisdiction for a typical project we take on, these projects (teacher housing) are fun to work on. Everyone digs in and tries to get them done.”

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