Landed, a San Francisco company that helps public school educators buy homes by covering a portion of their down payments, is partnering with the Palo Alto school district.
Landed held an information session for teachers and staff on Wednesday, following a late-August meeting with Superintendent Don Austin and union presidents Teri Baldwin and Meb Steiner to discuss the partnership.
The partnership requires no financial contribution on behalf of the school district; Palo Alto Unified only sends communication to its employees about Landed and interested staff can reach out to the company for more information.
Since 2015, Landed has worked with school districts throughout the state — and now nation — to help teachers and staff purchase homes closer to where they work. For eligible teachers and staff, Landed will pay up to 10 percent of their down payment. For example, if a home costs $800,000 and the 20 percent down payment ($160,000) is out of reach, Landed will split the payment with the teacher. The company also provides a real estate agent, a lender and financial guidance. There are no upfront fees or monthly payments.
Landed makes its return on investment when the teacher sells or buys out the investment. When the homebuyer is ready to end the partnership with Landed (any time before 30 years), he or she pays back Landed's original investment plus 25 percent of the appreciation or depreciation in the home.
The only requirements are that the applicant qualifies for a primary mortgage, has worked for at least two years in a public school district and commits to staying for at least two more years.
"For schools in Palo Alto and for districts like Palo Alto Unified, recruiting and retaining their employees has become the biggest challenge," said Landed Engagement Lead Kat Clark. "The pressure on the public schools in communities like Palo Alto impact the whole community, especially the children."
Landed has partnered with 84 school districts across the country, the majority in the Bay Area, including in Menlo Park, Mountain View, San Mateo and other Peninsula cities. As of this week, the company had helped 100 teachers purchase homes.
Superintendent Austin said that Landed may only impact a small segment of employees, but that the district is trying to address rising housing prices "through multiple options that make sense to the individual."
Clark also acknowledged that Landed is only one piece of the housing puzzle. The company decided to address down payments in particular because for many people in the Bay Area, the payments presented the "biggest hurdle" to homeownership.
"We really see ourselves as part of this larger ecosystem of people in the Bay Area who are trying to address this problem. We know there's not just one solution," Clark said.
Locally, another teacher housing proposal is gaining traction. Spearheaded by County Supervisor Joe Simitian earlier this year, the idea is to build at least 60 housing units on county-owned land at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto exclusively for teachers and school staff. In order to pay for the steep costs of the project -- estimated at $36 million -- Simitian is banking on each of the five regional school districts to pony up $600,000 for their share of the units.
Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said neither Landed or the county project will help all teachers, but she hopes that together with other initiatives they will help more "teachers to be able to afford to live a workable distance from their schools."