BOE reviewing need for lower-cost housing for teachers as recruitment & retention incentive

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The Beaufort County Board of Education will consider an affordable housing program that Superintendent Jeff Moss says will help the district recruit and retain teachers in the county, which has South Carolina’s highest cost of living.

Moss said the initiative’s goal would be to provide one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments that would rent for considerably less than currently monthly rates in the local rental market.

“We’re struggling to attract and retain the numbers of classroom teachers we need,” Moss said. “And teachers who turn down jobs in our district – or teachers who accept jobs here but move away after a year or two – frequently cite housing expenses as a major factor in their decisions.

“More than 40 prospective teachers went through our application and interview process this year. We offered them jobs, but they ultimately declined those offers. There’s no doubt in my mind that our high housing costs factored into those decisions.”

At a recent Beaufort County Board of Education meeting, Bluffton High School students presented a research report indicating that the county’s cost of living can be as much as 65 percent higher than some South Carolina counties that compete with Beaufort County for teachers. The Bluffton High students, members of Justin Robinson’s Civil Engineering and Architecture class, also showed Board members preliminary designs for one-, two- and three-bedroom homes for teachers.

Moss said that he had held preliminary discussions about the proposal with the Beaufort Housing Authority, the Town of Bluffton and other possible stakeholders and supporters.

Although it is too early in the process to estimate costs for the initiative, Moss said that funds would come from grants and other sources, not from the school district’s budget. The date when the first homes would be available for teachers would depend on how quickly the proposal advances, Moss said.

A teacher housing program would not be unprecedented because the district provided housing to teachers over a three-decade period from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Board of Education has already moved to help with the district’s high cost of living by funding a $1,000-a-year “locality supplement” for district employees. Board members have expressed a desire to increase that supplement in $1,000 increments each year until it totals $5,000 annually.

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