SAN JOSE – With the groundbreaking celebration of the 231 Grant Avenue Educator Workforce Housing development, Santa Clara County is now a big step closer to having a its first County-led teacher housing development. The 110-unit development, located at 231 Grant Avenue in Palo Alto, was proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian in 2018 to help local teachers and other school staff live in the communities they serve, and to help local school districts attract and retain top-quality staff.
“No one wins when teachers have to commute from miles and miles away,” said Simitian. “Time in the car is time that can’t be spent with students. By having our teachers live in the same areas they teach, we’re strengthening their role in and connection to our community, as well as helping them get more quality time with their own families.”
“Simply put,” added Simitian, “the high cost of housing is pricing our teachers and school staff out of the communities where they work. They’re commuting unbelievably long distances, and spending hours in the car that can’t be spent on lesson plans, helping a kid who needs just a little extra assistance, or attending a school event. Our teachers and staff shouldn’t be strangers in the communities where they work.”
The affordable rental apartments will be a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units for teachers and other school district employees from four school and community college districts in northern Santa Clara County, as well as schools in southern San Mateo County, including those in Ravenswood City School District. The complex will also include indoor and outdoor communal spaces, landscaped courtyards, vehicle parking, secured bike parking, and other residential amenities.
In support of the County’s effort, local school districts and the City of Palo Alto have also committed funding to help fund the housing development. The development is expected to offer 77 of its 110 units to teachers and staff employed by Palo Alto Unified School District, Los Altos School District, Mountain View Whisman School District, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
Meta (previously known as Facebook) has also committed $25 million in grant funding to support the project. The partnership with this company, which has been supporting Ravenswood City School District teachers with subsidized rent since 2017, will allow 32 units to be offered to teachers and school staff from schools in southern San Mateo County. One unit will be set aside for an onsite manager.
“As a teacher in the Los Altos School District, I’m so grateful that our district has made this investment in housing for its employees,” said Chris Hazelton, teacher at Covington Elementary School and President of the Los Altos Teachers Association. “This commitment from the districts and Santa Clara County ensures that more teachers are able to live, work, and thrive in our community.”
“It’s an incredible opportunity to have affordable teacher and school employee housing in our own backyard,” said Meb Steiner, President of the California School Employees Association Palo Alto Chapter. “We realize that it’s not the solution to the housing crisis, but it is a wonderful first step and can serve as an example for future projects. The collaborative partnership of public and private stakeholders is a very positive aspect and highlights the importance of this issue across our community.”
Santa Clara County selected non-profit development partners Mercy Housing and Abode Communities in 2019 to develop and manage the site. Since then, the development team has met with school districts, the City of Palo Alto, neighborhood groups, community members and various other stakeholders to increase awareness of the project and solicit community input. In addition, the team surveyed more than 1,300 teachers and school employees and used that information to help determine the unit mix and income levels that will be served.
“On behalf of the Palo Alto community, we are thrilled to celebrate the start this wonderful affordable housing project that will serve teachers, school district staff, and their families,” said Lydia Kou, Palo Alto mayor. “Thank you to County Supervisor Joe Simitian, plus co-developers Abode Communities and Mercy Housing California, and Meta for their investment and leadership in furthering affordable housing in our community. We cannot wait to welcome the new residents of 231 Grant to the Palo Alto community.”
Construction is anticipated to be completed in summer 2025 with teachers, school district employees, and their families moving in shortly after. As Simitian hoped, progress on the County’s first teacher housing development has sparked interest in other parts of the County. “Even before we broke ground on our North County project in Palo Alto, I was hearing from school folks in other parts of my district,” said Simitian. To address that need, Simitian has proposed a second development (in Cupertino) to serve schools in the West Valley. “We have a site, agreement by our Board of Supervisors and lots of interest from our local schools. I’ve already spoken with superintendents and school board members in more than a half dozen districts.”
“Great communities need great schools. Great schools need great staff. And that means affordable housing,” said Simitian. “This has been a long time coming, and I’m gratified to see us reach this stage. It may be one project, but over time it has the ability to impact hundreds of teachers and school staff, and literally thousands of students who will benefit from staff’s presence in the community.”
For more information and updates about 231 Grant Educator Workforce Housing please visit www.sccgov.org/231grant.