Sonoma County could be following in the footsteps of other Bay Area counties by setting aside a parcel of land to build affordable housing for teachers and other public employees.

On Nov. 30, the Sonoma County Office of Education finalized the purchase of a residential property at 3280 Juniper Ave. in Santa Rosa in the hopes of creating a 60-unit housing complex dubbed Casitas de Amarosa.

The buildings would be on the same parcel as Amarosa Academy, an alternative education campus that serves about 45 students from seventh through 12th grades who have experienced challenges in traditional school settings.

“Building housing that school staff can afford is essential to our mission of serving students,” said incoming Sonoma County Superintendent Amie Carter in a statement. “This housing will help us realize our goal of strengthening and diversifying our educational workforce.”

The move would be part of a recent trend in the state to provide housing for teachers and local government staff who might enjoy working in a county or school district but can’t afford to live there. This has created a strain on local governments that have a hard time attracting and hiring staff.

The average teacher’s salary in Sonoma County is $62,479, according to Salary.com, a market data and analytics company. According to 2020 Census data, the median income in the county is $86,173.

“No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. It’s just that much harder to attract and retain the best teachers available.”

Joe Simitian, Santa Clara County Supervisor

In September, San Francisco broke ground on Shirley Chisholm Village in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, which will provide affordable housing for 135 individuals or families that include someone that works for the San Francisco Unified School District.

Marin County is in the process of finalizing plans to build a similar apartment complex for teachers, school staff and county staff in San Quentin Village, the area surrounding the infamous prison that holds gorgeous, sweeping views of the Bay.

Supervisors in Santa Clara County approved a 110-unit teacher housing project at the beginning of the year that will also serve educators in southern San Mateo County. It has an opening date set for 2024.

“No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian in January. “It’s just that much harder to attract and retain the best teachers available.”

The $630,000 purchase of the Casitas property in Santa Rosa includes a parcel of land stretching from the front of the Amarosa campus along Dutton Avenue and back to Juniper Avenue. The Sonoma County Office of Education will be asking the county to rezone the area for high-density housing.

The project had been in the works for a while, according to education office, but COVID-19 stalled the endeavor.

“Casitas de Amarosa was one of my main project goals during my last term,” said outgoing Superintendent Steven Herrington, who will be retiring this month after serving three four-year terms. “COVID delayed the project from moving forward, but I am so proud to have it back on track.”