Serenity at Larkspur in Larkspur, Calif.
Courtesy Catalyst Housing Group Serenity at Larkspur in Larkspur, Calif.

Catalyst Housing Group is showing its appreciation for teachers in Northern California’s Marin County with the creation of a nonprofit housing fund.

Catalyst has announced the formation of the Essential Housing Fund, a nonprofit that will focus its efforts on reducing rental housing costs for county teachers. Seeded with $100,000 from Catalyst, the nonprofit will begin accepting applications from qualified teacher households interested in discounted rents at Serenity at Larkspur, a 342-unit luxury rental community in Larkspur.

According to Larkspur-based Catalyst, the rates will be set so that approved applicants won’t pay more than 35% of their household income toward rent. In addition, traditional security deposits will be waived, and $1,000 will be contributed toward each teacher household’s moving costs.

“Starting teacher salaries in Marin average $50,000,” said Catalyst founder Jordan Moss. “When combined with average countywide rental rates of $2,800, our teachers are faced with allocating more than two-thirds of their pre-tax earnings toward housing costs, simply to live within the very communities that depend on them. This is an untenable situation that leads to excruciating commutes, congestion, pollution, social dislocation, and an overall reduced quality of life for the essential workforce we’re entrusting and relying upon to educate our children.”

In addition, budget cuts to school districts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic could be even more problematic for teachers who already face the unattainable rents in the community.

“The Larkspur-Corte Madera School District is dedicated to attracting and retaining high-caliber educators; however, we lose out on a pool of new teachers every year due to a lack of affordable housing, and that is only going to get worse as we grapple with significant state budget cuts in the wake of COVID-19,” said Brett Geithman, district superintendent. “While we’ve been able to meet our goals of staffing high-quality teachers, I’m nervous about the upcoming generation. This partnership with Catalyst will be instrumental in our recruitment efforts and allow teachers to live within the community they serve.”

Catalyst was founded in 2015, with a focus on the acquisition, development, and management of rent-restricted communities targeting middle-income households earning no more than 120% of the area median income. The firm’s housing is intended to serve essential workers, such as nurses, first responders, and teachers. It partnered with the California Community Housing Agency to acquire Serenity in 2019 as well as apartment communities in neighboring Sonoma and Solano counties, where it plans to rapidly expand the geographical focus of the Essential Housing Fund.