New program helps TPS teachers buy affordable homes near neighborhood schools
A new collaborative housing program will provide up to $56,000 in cost assistance to Tulsa Public Schools teachers who want to live and work in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood.
The program, a partnership between nonprofit organization Growing Together and local home builder Capital Homes, will provide $4,000 in down payment assistance and up to $4,000 in closing cost assistance to current TPS teachers.
Between three and seven homes will be available, and preference will be given to teachers serving at Kendall-Whittier and Sequoyah elementary schools, as well as Will Rogers College Junior High and High School.
TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said the program gives the district a “powerful tool for teacher recruitment and retention.”
“The most important factor in student achievement is the classroom teachers, and housing incentive programs improve our ability to bring exceptional educators to Tulsa Public Schools,” she said.
Kirk Wester, executive director of Growing Together, said providing teachers with housing in this area has a “dual-directional value.”
“In other words, it’s stabilizing a community with quality new homes, but it also … provides significant exposure for those teachers to understand and be better equipped to empathize with the community and its particular needs,” he said. “So they have not just a relationship (with the students) during the day, but they have a living relationship with the community overall,” which allows them to connect with kids on a “much more real level.”
To qualify for the program, teachers would have to agree to live in the home for at least five years.
The homes, which will be built in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood starting in the fall, will range from 1,400 to 1,800 square feet and will start at $160,000. The houses would feature three to four bedrooms, as well as an attached two-car garage. They would include energy-efficient features.
Wester said the program gives TPS the opportunity “to show some innovative ideas around how you can incentivize teachers to think of Tulsa Public Schools as being a quality place to work that has some ancillary benefits that, frankly, other communities don’t.”
David Charney, owner of Capital Homes, said he is happy to participate in the initiative.
“It’s an example of Tulsa at its finest — a partnership between our public schools, the philanthropic community and the private sector,” Charney said.
Growing Together works to bring residents and organizations together to improve neighborhoods and schools.
Wester said, “We really view our role pretty holistically, in that it’s not just creating great schools, but we also think that the conditions … kids live in, namely neighborhoods, are a critical player in terms of their long-term success.”
Funding for Growing Together’s portion of the incentive, $28,000, comes from a grant by NeighborWorks America, a national organization that works to provide affordable housing and community development.
Construction on the houses is scheduled to begin in the fall, and the homes will be ready for move-in spring 2017.