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New Haven teachers cash in on rent-free housing

Adam Hopfner of the Yale School of Architecture tours a two-family home on Howard Street in New Haven. The home will house teachers at the Friends Center for Children and their families.
Abby Brone
Connecticut Public
Adam Hopfner of the Yale School of Architecture tours a two-family home on Howard Street in New Haven. The home will house teachers at the Friends Center for Children and their families.

A New Haven early childcare center is expanding a program providing free homes for teachers and their families.

Friends Center for Children began the Teacher Housing Initiative in 2021. With the planned completion of a newly constructed home set for the fall, the center will provide housing for six of its teachers.

The program is specifically designed to ease the financial burden some educators face, Friends Center Executive Director Allyx Schiavone said. Ninety-seven percent of educators teaching children under the age of five are women and mostly people of color.

“The Friends Center Teacher Housing Initiative was born out of a resistance to an oppressive system,” Schiavone said. “The early care and education system is the foundation of our economy and the bedrock of that foundation are the teachers, and that system is in crisis. It works for no one. Parents pay too much. Educators make too little. Providers cannot survive, businesses can't thrive, and our children are stuck in the middle.”

Annually, the nation loses $122 billion in revenue through inadequate investment in education systems for children three and under, Schiavone said.

The educator salary benefit can jump from the Connecticut average of $34,502 to $54,500, based on the 2023 Connecticut Fair Market Rents averages, by relieving teachers of the burden of rent.

“Our teacher housing initiative presents an original model for how to compensate educators with the wages and long term support they deserve at a one time cost versus annual ongoing costs,” Schiavone said.

By 2027, Friends Center plans to expand its teacher force to 80. Providing free housing for 24 teachers. For the planned expansion in its housing program, Friends Center partnered with the Yale Schools of Management and Architecture.

Students in theJim Vlock First Year Building Project program will design and construct five adjacent homes for the Center in the next five years. Each building will house two teachers and their families.

“The building project is really a vehicle for learning that's learning by doing,” Adam Hopfner, director of the Jim Vlock program, said. “But more importantly, it's a vehicle for understanding the process by which buildings get built, so that buildings are not for themselves, that buildings exist within a community, that there are regulatory issues and so forth and so on that have to be met.”

Dozens of architectural master’s students partake in the planning and design of the homes, throughout the spring semester.

Friends Center teachers apply into the free rent program and are selected based on need and family size.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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