Helping teachers land homes

  • Karina Hernandez teaches English and Language Arts to Konawaena High School 10th graders. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Karina Hernandez teaches English and Language Arts to Konawaena High School 10th graders. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Karina Hernandez teaches English and Language Arts to Konawaena High School 10th graders. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — In a state where just 51 percent of its public school teachers are still teaching five years after being hired, a California company is hoping to give teachers a little more security by helping them become homeowners through a partnership with the Hawaii Executive Conference and Hawaii Community Foundation.

Landed, which started a little over three years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area, helps educators in communities across the country by matching up to half of a down payment on a home.

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In the last year, the company expanded to other markets including Seattle, Denver and Southern California, said Ian Magruder, director of partnerships. In the last couple years, Landed has helped more than 200 families purchase homes, equating to more than $100 million worth of home investments.

“So we’ve been able to reach some scale, but we’re just really getting started in some ways,” Magruder said.

The Hawaii Executive Conference announced the partnership last week. A statement following the launch said the effort is the result of the Hawaii Executive Conference adopting the Hawaii Community Foundation’s CHANGE Framework, aimed at encouraging collaboration to tackle the state’s most pressing issues.

Hawaii, Magruder said, marks the company’s first statewide launch, where they’ll be covering all public schools — including charter schools chartered with the Hawaii Department of Education — and Kamehameha Schools. The state’s school officials welcomed the launch.

“It is exciting to see leaders across the state coming together to work with the department on enhancing our recruitment and retention efforts by providing these types of resources,” said Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “It is a testament to what can be done when businesses rally around our students and educators and offer solutions.”

The funds from Landed provide up to half of the down payment on a home in exchange for part of the rise or fall in the home’s long-term value. If the homeowner sells within the next 30 years, they’re responsible for paying back Landed’s initial down payment plus or minus 25 percent of the home’s appreciation or depreciation.

For example an educator looking to buy a $500,000 home would be eligible for up to $50,000 from Landed to match his or her own personal funds.

If the homeowner then, say 10 years later, sells the home for $600,000, they would pay back Landed a total $75,000 the original $50,000 plus 25% of the gain in value.

If, however, the home’s value drops by $100,000 by the time it’s sold, Landed shares in that loss meaning the homeowner would only pay back $25,000.

Educators need to be working full-time for two years to qualify and stay full-time two years after taking Landed’s support.

Just a few years in, Magruder said in the regions Landed has been helping educators, they’re seeing a positive impact on teacher retention.

“In other words,” he said, “teachers are more likely to stick around — unsurprisingly — once they have their housing situation more solidified.”

Those who know about the program are optimistic about what it can mean for Hawaii’s educators.

Konawaena High School English language arts teacher Karina Hernandez said everything she’s experienced over her five years of teaching has been amazing, from the community that’s welcomed her to the culture of the school where she teaches.

“And the only thing I guess that’s not perfect would be the conditions of living,” she said. “I do live in a household with five other roommates, and that has been the case since I got here.”

With Landed launching here through the new partnership, Hernandez said she really likes seeing the private sector exploring ways to help teachers.

“As a teacher, that makes me feel appreciated. It makes me feel like, ‘Wow, there’s this private sector that cares about teachers,’” she said. “Little simple things like that make you feel that people are out there trying to solve the problem.”

While she expects the program can help some of her colleagues, she said she personally doesn’t think she’ll be able to participate yet, saying that while she’s got some money saved, it’s not enough to match the down payment.

“At first I was like, ‘That’s amazing,’” she said, “but then I look at the prices of the homes and it’s like, ‘OK, if I can make enough of the down payment, what about the rest of my house payments? Where’s that going to come from if my paycheck’s still the same?’”

Hernandez said Landed’s launch in Hawaii also marks a really great opportunity for others in both the public and private sector to learn from the company’s approach, which hopefully can all have a snowball effect that makes it feasible for teachers like her to see homeownership as a reality.

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Info sessions for Kona and Hilo are scheduled for May 17 from 4-5 p.m at Konawaena High School and Waiakea High School. Registration is free and available online.

Registration for the Kona session is available at https://bit.ly/2V1dhsQ, and registration for the Hilo session can be found at https://bit.ly/2GRGBNb.

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