Superintendents Explore Teacher Housing Strategies

Leaders from seven Catholic dioceses and archdioceses gathered on campus June 7th - 8th, 2023, to explore ways to leverage Church-owned real estate to support Catholic educators.

Even as diocesan leaders across the country deepen their commitment to education, parish and diocesan schools face steep challenges recruiting and retaining teachers and staff. Participants at the summit, co-hosted by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate’s Church Properties Initiative (CPI), compared notes on strategies to support educators through increased wages, professional development, and through direct or indirect provision of housing.

CPI's Maddy Johnson presents insights drawn from the ACE Teaching Fellows program.
CPI's Maddy Johnson presents insights drawn from the ACE Teaching Fellows program.

Compensation for Catholic teachers almost universally lags that of their public-school counterparts, and the urban locations of many Catholic schools entail high housing costs. With 253 schools in its network, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles operates the largest faith-based school system in the nation, noted Paul Escala, Senior Director and Superintendent of Schools, Archdiocese of Los Angeles. On top of their demanding vocations as educators, the more than 5,000 teachers serving the system’s 68,000 students have to withstand the pressure of southern California’s notoriously tight housing market.

Matthew Walter, COO for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, described similar dynamics in his Archdiocese's largely urban, 155-school system, served by nearly 5,000 teachers. Along with other delegates from St. Paul and Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Denver, Brooklyn (NY), and Springfield (IL), summit participants explored the potential for the Church's extensive real estate footprint, often aging and underutilized, to be reimagined as a positive factor in the Catholic education equation.

Fr. Pat Reidy, C.S.C., leads participants in a reflection.
Fr. Pat Reidy, C.S.C., CPI's Faculty Co-Director, leads participants in a reflection.

Strategies discussed ranged from converting unused rectories and convents into intentional communities for early-career educators—a variation on the ACE Teaching Fellows model—to ground-up construction of affordable housing on vacant land, such as is envisioned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' new Our Lady Queen of Angels Housing Alliance. CPI also provided data, research, and case studies to highlight other examples nationwide.

Participants discuss opportunities to support teachers.
Participants discuss opportunities to support teachers with ACE's John Schoenig.

Workshop sessions led by John Schoenig (Senior Director of Teacher Formation and Education Policy, ACE), John Lloyd (Associate General Counsel, University of Notre Dame), Michael Schierl (Founder & President, Julius Capital; Immaculata Law Firm), Fr. Pat Reidy, C.S.C. (Associate Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School & CPI Faculty Co-Director, Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate), David Murphy (CPI Program Director, Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate) and Maddy Johnson (CPI Program Manager, Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate) invited discussion on community creation, legal hurdles, financing strategies, data innovations, and market dynamics.

“One of the most underappreciated ingredients in the ‘secret sauce’ of Catholic schools for the past 200+ years is that Catholic school teachers typically work in solidarity with the communities that they serve,” says ACE’s John Schoenig. “The teachers live, learn, and grow in the same spaces as the children entrusted to their care. It's no secret that we now face market force headwinds that make such solidarity increasingly more complicated. However, there are a number of innovative approaches to teacher housing that should give us a great deal of hope.”

The Church Properties Initiative will welcome participants back to campus for the second annual fall Church Properties conference, taking place October 29th - 31st, 2023. Building on Fall 2022's inaugural conference, the Fall 2023 conference will gather diocesan real estate leaders, academic researchers, and industry professionals to tackle the opportunities and challenges facing the Church as the world's largest private landowner, in light of its calling to worship and service.