Private school Elite San Jose faces a public challenge – housing


The Harker School boasts of a world-class reputation built over more than a century, regularly sending graduates to Stanford, Harvard and other elite universities.

But the San Jose private school shares a common problem with its public school brethren across the Bay Area — the lack of affordable housing for teachers.

Harker found a solution by quietly buying two apartment buildings near his campus for $3.8 million to convert into staff quarters.

But long-term rent-controlled tenants have been stunned to receive notices to move from their new landlords. As many as eight families are likely to be relocated, aided by school relocation grants.

“I was shocked. I was overwhelmed,” said Jane Kenney, an energetic 84-year-old who has lived in the same Troy Drive apartment for 25 years. “Where am I going to go?”

The move highlights a troubling ripple effect of the Bay Area housing crisis — Harker teachers who waited nearly a decade for a school apartment will move longtime residents with fewer resources to find safe and affordable housing.

Harker School principal Brian Yager said staff accommodation was an ongoing concern. The private school has had four apartment buildings near its San Jose campus for about 20 years, but even so, some staff have been waiting at least eight years for a spot, he said.

With the high cost of housing in the Bay Area, Yager said, “it’s a challenge to attract and retain great teachers.”

The demand for affordable housing for teachers is only a small part of the housing crisis in the Bay Area, although it is getting more attention from public and private schools as apartment prices rise. increase. The median price of a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose is now $3,050, and $2,800 in Oakland and $4,000 in San Francisco, according to listing site Zumper.

High prices weigh on young teachers. The median teacher salary in the San Jose metro area is around $90,000 and around $86,000 in the East Bay and San Francisco, according to research by online broker Redfin.

The Harker School pays teachers salaries that are competitive, but not as high as some Bay Area public schools, Yager said. He declined to give a pay scale for the instructors.

Finding housing for teachers has been a long-standing struggle for Bay Area school districts. Some have used taxpayers’ money to build affordable apartments. A new 110-unit state-funded project in Palo Alto that will provide subsidized units to teachers in five school districts is expected to cost $87 million. In Daly City, the Jefferson Union High School District used voter-approved bonds to build a 122-unit project on school grounds.

For Harker, a private school where annual tuition costs range from about $39,000 for elementary students to more than $56,000 for high school students, the answer has been to purchase and renovate existing buildings.

The school has been looking for opportunities to accommodate more teachers, Yager said. Local real estate agents monitoring the neighborhood alert Harker to offers on the market.

Including recent purchases, the school now owns six apartment buildings with approximately two dozen units near the school grounds on Troy Drive and Northlake Drive. Harker bought a fourplex at 525 Northlake Dr. in March for $1.9 million, according to public records. He completed a purchase in late May on another four-unit apartment building on Troy Drive for $1.9 million.

The school said it is reaching out to tenants personally and offering thousands of dollars to help residents move out. Residents of Troy Drive did not immediately receive offers of help after the sale closed last week, but one Northlake resident said he was offered about two months of his current rent, plus 600 $ for moving expenses. Harker facility staff have personally spoken to several tenants to help them move out, Yager said. “We try to be very accommodating,” he said.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – May 20: One of two apartment buildings purchased by the Harker School is pictured in San Jose, Calif., May 20, 2022. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

But neighbors are concerned about their community, a tidy neighborhood of old two-story apartment buildings adjacent to the Harker School’s graduate school campus. Residents of rent-controlled units often stay for decades, enjoying below-market rates and a stable neighborhood. Tenants in the Troy Drive building say they pay between $1,000 and $1,200 a month for their two-bedroom units.

Neighbors view the tight-knit community as a stable, safe and affordable place for working families and retirees on fixed incomes. People tend to each other’s children, and family gatherings can spill over into communal yards and parking lots.

Kenney and the other tenants aren’t mad at Harker and understand that the teachers need housing in the expensive South Bay market. “It’s all affordable housing,” Kenney said, pointing to his neighborhood.

She began looking for affordable apartments near her family and friends, from Marin County to Los Angeles, she said. “I searched, but there is not much available.”

Cindy and David Elemen raised their three children in the building. They don’t know what the future holds, but they expect to pay double their current rent of $1,200 to find a comparable apartment in San Jose.

“We don’t want to leave the area because our families are here,” said Cindy Elemen. “It’s going to be devastating.”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - May 20: One of two apartment buildings purchased by the Harker School is pictured in San Jose, Calif., May 20, 2022. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – May 20: One of two apartment buildings purchased by the Harker School is pictured in San Jose, Calif., May 20, 2022. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

Stephen Han has lived in the Northlake Drive building with his dogs and cats for 15 years. The school wants him out by the end of May, but Han struggles to find a two-bedroom apartment that allows pets.

He pays about $1,800 a month for his rent-controlled housing, but expects to pay more in a new apartment. The school offered him about $4,200 to help him move, but he doesn’t think that will be enough.

“I keep looking,” said Han, 42, who runs a dental lab in San Jose. “But if I don’t find anything, I could be on the street.”

Darlynn Ricks’ family has owned a fourplex on Troy Drive for about 40 years, she said. Occasionally, a real estate agent or school representative will ask you if they are interested in selling.

They refused all offers, she said. But she knows that the school needs housing for the teachers. “If people want to sell, they want to buy,” Ricks said. “Their employees want a place to live.”


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