by Katherine Conrad


Santa Clara Unified School District’s experiment in retaining young teachers by offering them affordable housing has proven successful as the second phase of the 30-unit Casa del Maestro is already full. And 31 more teachers are on a waiting list in case any of the one- and two-bedroom units becomes available.

Turns out teachers are less likely to leave the Bay Area, which still has the highest housing costs in the state, if they have an affordable place to live. The district also noted that paying lower rents allows teachers to save to buy houses, which is exactly what occurred when 10 residents left to buy their own homes.

The project, one of the first in the country to be built exclusively for teachers, opened in 2002 as a public/private partnership between the Santa Clara school district and Education Housing Partners, an affiliate of Thompson | Dorfman Partners LLC of Mill Valley.

The development, built on a 2-plus-acre site of surplus school property located on Lochinvar Avenue, was valued at $6 million for the first phase and $6 million for the second phase. Rents range from $980 to $1,400 a month.

Since the first phase was completed in 2002, the attrition rate for teachers with the housing benefit has been less than one-third that of teachers with comparable experience without the benefit.

MLS launches for multifamily rentals

In an effort to grease the wheels of commerce, Wheelhouse Investment Real Estate Brokerage just launched a multiple listing service for multifamily rental buildings.

The site,, offers more than 450 listings of apartment complexes throughout the Bay Area in an effort to help investors find the smaller projects.

Michael Thomas, co-founder of the 3-year-old brokerage firm based in San Francisco, said the site seeks to duplicate the MLS, the bible for the residential real estate market, by offering investors a chance to check out what’s available rather than relying on a broker to bring them information.

“Seventy percent of the research process happens before an investor picks up the phone to call me,” Thomas said. “It’s similar to the home-buying process where the investors do a lot of their own homework.”

Wheelhouse focuses on the investor interested in buying property in the mid-market range, priced from $1 million to $5 million. Thomas said the bulk of the deals — he guessed 85 percent — occur in that range. And those deals are getting done, even in this market. Since the site was launched two weeks ago, traffic has steadily increased, and time spent by each visitor on the site has jumped from three minutes to eight.

“Investors are still interested in the multifamily sector — it’s the last stable real investment today,” he said.

The reason? “Rents are not going down as quickly as other commercial investments,” he said.

A deal that just closed fits that description. Brian Henry, a broker with NAI/BT Commercial’s Multi-Family Group, closed a sale of the six-unit Kirkland Apartments complex in Sunnyvale. The two-story property sold for $1 million.