91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Holland Public Schools is helping teachers buy homes, put down roots

Teachers Live Here $25k winners (left to right): Alba Mercado Rosado, Angela Gonzalez-Urbina, Jessica Forman, Tracy Conley
Courtesy of Holland Public Schools
Teachers Live Here $25k winners (left to right): Alba Mercado Rosado, Angela Gonzalez-Urbina, Jessica Forman, Tracy Conley

A new program aims to help Holland Public Schools address problems with housing affordability and staff retention by helping teachers buy homes in the lakeside school district.

Named "Teachers Live Here," the program, announced in January and funded anonymously, plans to give $25,000 to at most 10 Holland teachers a year who are seeking to buy a home in or near the district. They can use the money for a down payment on a house, as long as they agree to remain teachers at Holland Public Schools an additional five years.

The issue of affordable places for educators is a common one across the state, said Holland schools Superintendent Nick Cassidy.

“(They are) the same problems everyone is trying to address right now in terms of the teacher shortage and recruiting and retaining the best possible teachers for our kids,” he said.

Michigan’s teacher shortage and its housing supply crunch are well documented challenges. A December press release from the state Department of Education noted the budget for fiscal year 2023 includes $575 million for a range of initiatives to recruit and train teachers “in response to a persistent teacher shortage.”

In Holland, a committee selects winners based on various criteria. First-time homebuyers with household incomes under $100,000 get first preference. And homes purchased with Teachers Live Here money have to be located within 15 miles of the school district boundaries. The anonymous donor gave enough ($1.75 million) to run the pilot program for seven years.

Cassidy said the first recipient, first-grade Holland schools teacher Lillian Snoeyink, is closing on a house she used the money to make an offer on.

“So it’s making a difference,” Cassidy said. “We’ve only been doing this for two months now. We’ve had five teachers approved already.”

Cassidy said there aren’t many homes for sale in Holland that are affordable for teachers working in a public school district whose budget is largely determined by the state, so Teachers Live Here will be “a big help." In the past, Cassidy says HPS has seen teachers who bought cheaper homes outside of Holland leave when they eventually find a job closer to home.

Holland Public Schools Superintendent Nick Cassidy
Photo Courtesy of Holland Public Schools
Holland Public Schools
Holland Public Schools Superintendent Nick Cassidy

According to data from the real estate listing data company RealComp II Ltd, the median selling price of homes in Holland over the past twelve months is $273,366 ($200 per square foot). A copy of a labor agreement between the Holland School district and its teachers union which expired in 2021 shows the lowest base pay for Holland teachers in the 2019-2020 school year started at $38,090.

Lynette Brander has been an HPS teacher since 2006, currently teaching English language instruction. Brander said when she and her husband were looking for a home it was important to her to live in Holland. She wanted to live where she worked for a deeper sense of connection to the community.

Brander said she’s glad Teachers Live Here is making a difference, but that addressing housing affordability and teacher retention requires a multifaceted approach in every community, and that state lawmakers should also take more action.

“If we’re not able to hire teachers at competitive rates, then the ones who will suffer are the kids,” Brander said. “If communities cannot support affordable housing, it’s not just teachers that suffer. It’s the kids, and other members of the community as a whole.”

Cassidy said the state’s per-pupil funding model for public schools doesn’t leave much wiggle-room for innovation.

“Budgets are tight and the per pupil foundation allowance that we receive is always meant to educate kids in the most efficient way possible,” Cassidy said. “But as we can see with the cost of housing in Holland or the needs of different kids, the cost is different in different areas.”

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
Related Content