Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Teacher's Pay and Middle Income Housing

Meredith L. Jaffe of Ellicott City has a great letter to the editor in the Howard County Times:

In his Jan. 12 column ("Is affordable-housing issue one we can afford to ignore?"), Doug Miller asserts that middle-income housing, i.e. housing for people making 80 to 110 percent of the county median income, will help the county's teachers and police officers. As the median salary in Howard County is almost $75,000 per household, 80 percent is just over $59,000 per year. The median salary for a teacher in the school system is $45,426, or 61 percent of the median.

A teacher with a master's degree would need to have been teaching for 13 years in order to be considered middle-income.

This raises an important question:

How should we determine the income mix in the mixed income housing desired by about 90% of the people at the charrette?

I have heard a lot of people talking about percentages of the median income in the county, but this strikes me as an irrelevant number. The median income finds the middle of the income distribution and doesn't tell us very much about the full distribution. To truly have mixed income housing you need housing for the entire range, preferably in proportions matching what people in the community can afford. Thus the starting point for mixed income housing needs to be: what are the incomes earned by the jobs in the community?

A lot of people in our community work for the Federal Government so this could be a good starting point. The government pay scale in our area is:

Grade 1 Step 1 - $19,214
Grade 2 Step 1 - $21,602
Grade 3 Step 1 - $23,571
Grade 4 Step 1 - $26,460
Grade 5 Step 1 - $29,604
Grade 6 Step 1 - $33,000
Grade 7 Step 1 - $36,671
Grade 8 Step 1 - $40,612
Grade 9 Step 1 - $44,856
Grade 10 Step 1 - $49,397
Grade 11 Step 1 - $54,272
Grade 12 Step 1 - $65,048
Grade 13 Step 1 - $77,353
Grade 14 Step 1 - $91,407
Grade 15 Step 1 - $107,521

If you are starting with a college degree you are probably starting at a GS 5 Step 1 or a GS 7 Step 1 and if you are starting with a Masters degree you are probably starting with either a GS 7 Step 1 or a GS 9 Step 1. This means that many young professional in our area will have salaries in the $30,000 to $45,000 range. If the calculation of what a person can afford to purchase is three times their annual income, then these young professionals would be looking for properties in the $90,000 to $135,000 range. You currently cannot find a condo in Howard County in that range, nor are there very many apartments that could be rented by people making this range of income. When I bought my one bedroom one bath condo 2.5 years ago I bought it for $110,500. A couple months ago an identical unit went for $205,000.

To figure out what income-level mix in housing units we need it is important to get a better sense of the income ranges. How many jobs in the area pay less that $25,000 a year? How many pay $25,001 to $35,000? How many pay $35,001 to $45,000? How many pay $45,001 to $55,000? How many pay $55,001 to $65,000? How many pay $65,001 to $75,000? How many pay $75,001 to $100,000? How many pay over $100,000?

So we have looked a the federal pay scale, what are the other income levels of common employment groups in the area? Let's make this a collective research project. Please post in the comments or email me salaries for the jobs in the region. What do teachers make? What do fire fighters make? What do policemen make? What do nurses make? What do service industry workers make? What do facorty workers make? What do construction workers make? What do small business owners make? What do barbers and hair stylists make? Let me know about any profession you can think of that we have in this area.