WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15) introduced the Educator Down Payment Assistance Act to make homeownership more accessible and affordable for teachers.
The bill would establish a new grant program at the U.S. Department of Education for local governments and local educational agencies to provide down payment assistance to full-time public-school educators and school staff who are first-time home buyers. Educator shortages have only worsened during the pandemic and housing affordability is the biggest reason given for teachers leaving the profession. Entry-level teachers spend nearly half of their salaries on rent and typical rent is unaffordable for entry-level teachers in 49 of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States.
“Teacher pay has not kept pace with any other profession, leaving educators financially insecure and often forcing them to forgo the dreams of homeownership,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “With rising inflation and the high cost of living, teachers cannot compete in the current housing market. I am pleased to join Congressman Swalwell in making homeownership more attainable for educators. The Educator Down Payment Assistance Act will provide first-time home buyers with the financial support to purchase homes and build a life in the communities where they serve.”
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America was facing a shortage of qualified early childhood and K-12 teachers because they are so often underpaid and overworked, especially in low-income communities,” said Congressman Swalwell. “The Educator Down Payment Assistance Act can help address these disparities by helping teachers and other educational professionals afford homes in the communities where they teach.”
Currently, public elementary and secondary teachers earn about 20 percent less than similarly educated professions. Based on a worldwide comparison, the average salary gap between teachers and others with comparable educational backgrounds is greater in the U.S. than in any other OECD country with available data.
“School staff should be able to make roots in the communities where they teach, which is a key factor in recruiting and retaining educators and addressing the shortages that shortchange our kids,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “The Educator Down Payment Assistance Act will help districts access grant money that can aid teachers, paraprofessionals, librarians, and other school staff in home purchases, so they can afford to live in the neighborhoods where they teach. Affordable housing is one of the major barriers for teacher recruitment, and this bill could help create opportunities for more educators to take jobs in schools that need desperately need them, because they could finally afford to buy a home nearby.”
“Today’s competitive housing market often forces educators to live an hour or two hours from the communities they serve, increasing the risk of educators leaving the profession and contributing to educator shortages,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations for the National Education Association. “Down payment assistance programs with targeted incentives help keep educators in schools and in our communities. NEA proudly supports the Educator Down Payment Assistance Act.”
“Housing affordability is one of NAR’s top priorities, and we thank Representative Swalwell and Representative Hayes for introducing this innovative legislation,” said Leslie Rouda Smith, President of the National Association of Realtors. “Down payment assistance can remove a primary obstacle to homeownership for millions of qualified Americans, especially deserving educators and those in fields of public service.”
The following organizations support the Educator Down Payment Assistance Act: National Association of Realtors, National Association of Elementary and Secondary Principals, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Housing Resource Center, and National Housing Center.
The Educator Down Payment Assistance Act would:
- Authorize the Secretary of Education to provide competitive grants to local governments and local educational agencies that provide down payment assistance to full-time educators.
- Eligible grantees include public-school teachers, principals, specialized instruction support personnel, librarians, and counselors who are first-time home buyers.
- Allow educators with five or more years of service making up to 120 to 180 percent of median income depending on local costs of living to apply for grants up to $25,000.
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District. She was a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.