No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

Upper School Dean  Chris Jones (Taylor ’18, Avery ’23) has never enjoyed such a short commute to work— approximately 375 steps, to be specific. 

“I joke about it in a sense,” Chris Jones said. “But I really appreciate it. [Living in on- campus housing] is so convenient. We’ll stay as long as they allow us.”

While it may seem that the campus ends at Hamilton gym, through a maze of driveways lies a small community of approximately 10 houses. This neighborhood is apart of the school’s attempt to combat what Robert Lee Walters, a Studio City based realtor and founder of Leland Properties, considers an urgent housing problem for teachers in Los Angeles.

“It’s just tough for teachers these days to get affordable housing,” Walters said. “It’s just [that in Los Angeles], New York, Southern California, San Francisco… you just have to be careful.” 

For a handful of teachers, the school’s solution is these homes. The 10 competitively priced on-campus houses vary in size, ranging from almost 600 square feet to approximately 3,500 square feet, Chris Jones said. He and his wife, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Associate Director of Admission Janine Jones first moved into on-campus housing with their two daughters after relocating to Los Angeles eight years ago to work at the school.

“Before coming out here, I worked at a school in Ohio, and [my family and I] were trying to make the move,” Chris Jones said. “And we were trying to sell our house there and the housing market at the time was really bad. Within negotiating, the school let us know that there was a house that they used in the past for visiting teachers, so we said, ‘great, we’d love to stay there for a year as we sort of get our feet wet in the Los Angeles  area.’”

Head of Upper School Laura Ross, who also lives on campus , said that although the length of each tenant’s stay varies, the school tends to provide on-campus housing for faculty whose tasks are especially time-consuming, as well as on a need-based system.

“We want to be thoughtful,” Ross said. “Housing in Los Angeles is expensive, so we are thoughtful with the allocation and the needs of our faculty members.”

According to Zillow, the median price for a home as of July 31 was $689,500 in Los Angeles and $1,309,900 in Studio City.  Walters, who has sold houses in Los Angeles  for more than 30 years, said that even with an upper-end teacher salary of $75,000, there is still a lack of economical housing for faculty members in Studio City. 

English teacher Lucas Gonzalez, who has lived in expensive cities such as New York, said the costly housing takes a toll on his other financial opportunities.

“For people like me that aren’t rolling in the big bucks, it is a kind of existential crisis because you just kind of work to live,” Gonzalez said. “None of the money that you make really goes to ensuring any kind of financial savings or long-term security.”

To purchase homes in Los Angeles, teachers often must venture outside of the Studio City area and deeper into the valley, despite less than ideal situations, Walters said.

“Even the choices in Northridge or Reseda are limited,” Walters said. “Most homes start around $400,000. You may even be pushed out to Simi Valley, which is even further out, but that’s such a long drive that would be frustrating for anybody, let alone our hard-working teachers.”

As the Jones family adjusted to living on campus, they eventually requested additional time in the house, Chris Jones said.

“Living here for that year, we just grew so accustomed to the convenience of being this close,” Chris Jones said. “We petitioned to see if we could stay in the house a little bit longer, and we wanted to get a second year, the second year became the third and now we’re in our [eighth].”

Although teachers living on campus pay a reduced price for their homes, the school lifts the heavy burden of any necessary repairs, Chris Jones said.

“Just like if we were here on campus and there was something going on, we would file a maintenance report,” Chris Jones said. “We do the same thing with the houses, and it’s the school’s house, so the school takes care of all of it.”

Even though Ross’s school and home lives are inherently intertwined, the immense benefit of living on campus is clear, she said.

“It’s sometimes hard to get work out of your mind because your like, ‘I could be in my office in five minutes,'” Ross said. “But, I mean really, the pros outweigh the cons by a factor of a million.”

Taylor Jones ’18 said that living in on-campus housing with her family barely impacted her social life, and that due to to the convenience of the location, led to was an overall positive experience.

“The only thing that was affected was that it was easier for my friends to come over and hang out,” Taylor Jones said.

Chris Jones, who is aware that numerous teachers in Los Angeles have to take on second jobs to attain adequate housing, said he is especially grateful for his own living situation. 

“I think about being able to live in this house and even paying whatever the discounted rate is, it’s still expensive to live in Los Angeles ,” Chris Jones said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for teachers who are having to sort of figure out what their own housing is going to be.”

The issue of improving housing for teachers is ever-present, Chris Jones said.  Although he may be comfortable at the moment, he said the idea of bettering the lives of his fellow educators is on his future agenda.

“I’ve thought about this long and hard,” Chris Jones said. “If I ever wound up in some sort of leadership position, I think one of the things I’d like to take on is trying to find more affordable housing for faculty. I know that if [upper level administration] had the resources to do it, they would try to do something housing-wise for everyone. It’s just trying to come up with a solution that’s feasible.”

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