A new program announced today aims to help K-12 teachers in the state purchase a home. It's the result of a partnership with local leaders and a mainland firm with a connection to Mark Zuckerberg.
The Hawaiʻi Executive Conference is an organization of CEOs and decision makers from Hawaiʻi, Asia, and the mainland.
Members of the HEC say the high cost of living in Hawaiʻi is a key problem in retaining teachers. And one way to help is to assist educators to buy a home here.
To do this, the conference has partnered with a firm called Landed, which helps teachers with the down payment on homes in expensive areas, and educates them about home buying. The organization has assisted teachers in cities like Seattle, Denver and San Francisco.
The company is supported by partners, such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was created by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, and other philanthropies.
"Every staff member of the Department of Education is able to get access to up to $120,000 towards a down payment on a home," said Alex Lofton, co-founder of Landed. "That means that if they worked for two years for the district, they can get access to this."
Lofton says the Landed has, so far, raised $25 million to provide down payment assistance to educators, and is looking for more capital to help more teachers. "The beauty of this is that as long as the communities that we serve find it helpful, we can find more folks to come on board to support."
He added the organization doesn't provide a loan to teachers, but gives them half of a standard down payment in exchange for part of the appreciation gain or loss when the home is sold.
State officials hope the program will help recruit and keep teachers in the state. During a press conference to announce the program, state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto stressed the importance of making home ownership a reality for teachers in the state.
"We need to be able to offer viable opportunities to keep staff, teachers, and leaders in Hawaiʻi," said Kishimoto. "In order to do this we need bold ideas, we must be willing to solve our challenges with new thinking, and we must not be afraid of doing things differently.
"So let's continue to find solutions that raise the profile of educators, attract the best and the brightest of public education, and fill the classrooms with quality teachers."
Economist Sumner La Croix says the program looks great, and can really help teachers get over the down payment hurdle. But Landed's cut of the home sale can be a downside.
"It may be harder for somebody who gets into this program to move up to a better home in the future, because you don't have as much appreciation to build on to move to a better home," said La Croix.
He also points out that when it comes to the future value of homes in Hawaiʻi may not necessarily be a sure thing.
"The housing market in Hawaiʻi is one that people always think there's going to be lots of gains. That's not always true. There's been periods here where the housing prices have fallen. There's been periods where they haven't increased all that much. And we need to be careful to predict there's going to be tons of gains in the future."
La Croix says as with any financial transaction, it always helps to read the fine print.
Landed will be holding talk story sessions on every island from May 13-17 to further discuss how teachers can participate. More information about the sessions can be found on their website.