The Return of the Company Town?

It seems, ahem, appropriate, that on Labor Day there should be an article in the Sun-Sentinel about a proposal floated by the Broward County School System to bring back the company town in order to help retain workers.

Broward County school officials are considering the unique idea of providing affordable housing to employees, which some hope could offset high housing costs they say deter teachers from working in the county.

"Retention of existing school teachers is economically critical," states a report to be presented to the School Board for discussion on Tuesday. "To protect the educational system and to sustain Broward County Public Schools into the future, a districtwide housing plan for its teachers and other employees is necessary."

The idea: Donate public land to a private developer in return for affordable housing rented out exclusively to school employees.

I don't suppose I have to tell you that I think this is a spectacularly bad idea, but I will anyway. It's bad for at least a couple of reasons. The first is that it's attacking the wrong part of the problem, which is pay for school employees. The article focuses on teachers, because they're the most visible part of the system, but I would be amazed if the people most likely to move into this housing project weren't cafeteria workers, janitors, and other support personnel. My mother-in-law works for the school system, has for years as support staff, and there's no way she's making what the average teacher is making. Our teachers are underpaid as well, but I doubt they'd be the primary beneficiaries of the system here proffered.

The second reason it's a bad idea is that it's linked to a problem that is, frankly, starting to fix itself, namely, the housing market. Anyone who has paid attention to the housing market in south Florida knows that it's sinking like Swamp Castle, and won't be rising again any time soon. The vacancy rates in Broward County are high and rising, thanks to the first population decrease in years, and there are more units coming onto the market thanks to construction already underway. Low demand plus overabundant supply equals lower prices. Basic economics.

But there's one last reason it's a bad idea. It involves giving public land to a private developer. Enough said.

Newer Post Older Post Home