How The Housing Crunch Affects Nevada Teachers

Jul 13, 2018

The recent rise in housing costs is lucrative for those who rent or sell homes in Northern Nevada. But for other residents, the threads of stability are breaking. KUNR's Bree Zender spoke with a math teacher who says she won't be able to afford to live here comfortably any longer. 

Jan Lenz moved to Reno two years ago, and decided to rent an apartment. She planned on buying a house eventually, but since the costs of housing have gone up in the past year, she's decided to pack up all her stuff and move to a city that's more affordable on a public teacher's salary.

"I was at Sparks High School. But now I'll be moving to Iowa," Lenz said.

Lenz lived in Iowa before she came here. But she decided to make a change in her life, and move West, closer to other members of her family.

"Two years ago, I thought it was reasonable, when I researched and decided to move here," Lenz said. "And I was waiting for my house to sell in Iowa. And then prices just kept going up higher and higher."

Jan said the people around her who are moving into her apartment complex are being charged more than she currently is paying for rent. And she suspects her rent will go up, too.

The average salary for public school teachers in Nevada is just over $52,000, according to the state department of personnel. And the state's schools can offer about $7,500 for home down payments, with the Home Is Possible For Teachers program.

"But $7,000 on a house that's $250,000 doesn't do enough. That doesn't help that much," Lenz said.

Jan is a single mom and is supporting one of her children through college. Many families in Northern Nevada require a second income to buy a home. And with the schedule of teaching, Jan said it's nearly impossible to hold a second job for some additional income.

"They don't tell you that while you're in school, but teaching is two full-time jobs," Lenz said. "You teach during the day, and then at night you work full-time planning, lesson planning, if you want good lessons."

When Jan signed her contract for her job in Iowa, started having second thoughts about moving away—mainly because of the students she teaches.

"My room always had students there after school. And if I weren't there... If I was [ever] gone, they would be like, 'Ms. Lenz, where were you?'," Lenz said. 

I asked Jan to read some of the notes students wrote for her in the pages of her school yearbook.

"'I'm sorry I was a pain in the butt. You're the only one that will put up with me,'" Lenz said. "'I just wanted to thank you for the year and for the chance to raise my grade. I hope they treat you well in Iowa. Have a great summer.' It was just starting to make me cry a little bit, thinking about it."

Jan actually tried to get out of her contract in Iowa, and stick it out here for another year. But they wouldn't let her. For now, she's finishing up teaching summer school, before she packs up, and heads back to Iowa.

You can find more from our series on housing in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra on KUNR's podcast: Priced Out: The Housing Crunch.