Via: California Construction

The Santa Clara Unified School District reports that the second phase of Casa del Maestro, the District’s award-winning workforce housing community, has been completed.

Phase II of Casa del Maestro, Spanish for “house of the teacher,” adds 30 additional employee-dedicated residences to the 40 units already in place in the community.
All 30 units have already been allocated to teachers in the district and a further 31 staff are on the waiting list.

Like Phase I, the project was a public private partnership between the district and Education Housing Partners, a non-profit corporation and affiliate of Mill Valley-based developer Thompson | Dorfman Partners, LLC. Thompson | Dorfman Partners, LLC provided complete design/build contracting services at cost for the development. The property was designed by Irvine-based KTGY Group and construction was completed ahead of schedule and under budget by Segue Construction of Pleasanton.

Second Phase of Affordable Housing for Teachers Opens

The size and layouts of the residences in Phase II include 18 one-bedroom units ranging in size from 702 to 787 sq ft; six one-bedroom plus den units ranging from 829 to 1,029 sq ft; and six two-bedroom, two-bath units totaling 1,122 sq ft.

Rents range from $980 per month for a one-bedroom unit to $1,400 per month for a two-bedroom which is about 50% less than similar quality market-rate units in Santa Clara County.

Phase II also includes several green features designed to save water and energy. These include low-flow kitchen and bathroom amenities such as showerheads, faucets and lavatories, water-efficient landscaping with drought-resistant foliage and energy-saving fluorescent exterior lighting. The development also deployed bioswales designed to remove silt and pollutants from surface runoff water.

In an effort to curb attrition of young faculty from the district, the SCUSD engaged Thompson | Dorfman Partners, LLC in 2001 to build 40 affordable apartments on surplus school property. High housing costs in the area had increased the attrition rate of teachers by 300% in the five years prior to this venture and estimates suggest it cost the district upwards of $50,000 just to train new teachers. In order to maximize the affordability of the units, the district structured an innovative tax-exempt financing instrument, which also allowed the project to be built and operated at no cost to taxpayers.

“Phase I of Casa Del Maestro has proved to be a very successful investment in our district’s overall infrastructure and has played a major part in our retention of talented teachers,” says Roger Barnes, business manager, Santa Clara Unified School District. “Phase II is just as popular and, combined, the two phases house more than 70 teachers and their families with a waiting list of at least 30 more. We are happy that we can provide this benefit as well as our mortgage assistance program to teaching staff throughout the district.”

Since the completion of the $6 million, 40-unit first phase of Casa del Maestro in 2002, the attrition rate for young teachers living in the community has been less than one-third of that for the district’s teachers with similar tenure not receiving this benefit.

Additional study results show that due to the significantly reduced rental rates at Casa del Maestro, residents have been able to save for down payments and buy homes in the area with the aid of the district’s Teacher Mortgage Assistance Program, or TMAP. To date, approximately one quarter of residents of the first phase have gone on to buy a home in the district through the TMAP program.

“Casa del Maestro is a prime example of a self sustaining community — environmentally, socially and also economically,” says Bruce Dorfman, co-founder, Thompson | Dorfman Partners, LLC. “Because of the financing structure, no district funds were used for the improvements and the rents cover operating costs, reserves and debt service. Even with a softening residential market, home prices and rental rates are still well beyond what most starting teachers can afford in metropolitan areas in California, so this type of workforce housing is as vital as ever.”

Dorfman adds that he believes despite budget restraints, many school districts around the state and the country still have the capacity to follow Santa Clara’s lead.

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