Mountain View, CA: Hardship Posting For Teachers Plays ‘Company Town’

Mountain View, CA photo by David Wilson is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Moutain View, CA struggles for employees in the new affordable housing wilderness.

What does the school district of Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay area share with a school district in Kitimat, British Columbia?

As far as their most important employees — teachers — are concerned, both are in the middle of nowhere.

An old photo from the 1950’s during the town of Kitimat’s birth shows how a school can be rapidly thrown together from a series of prefabs. But the teaching staff? That’s a whole other story.

1950's temporary school in Kitamat, BC

Kitimat BC “makeshift” High School 1955-1956 photo by Digital File by Fred Taylor license CC BY 3.0

Kitimat is a typical resource based company town, built to service Alcoa Aluminum’s huge refinery on the coast of British Columbia. The town sprang into existence without the benefit of paved roads connecting it to the rest of the world. Access was by ship or plane only.

In a typical company town, the industry responsible for its existence becomes responsible for pretty much everything. That includes providing or subsidizing housing not only for its own employees, but for ancillary workers responsible for the running of the community. Today, even with a paved road leading to the rest of civilization, Kitimat is still pretty much in the middle of nowhere — and a very beautiful one at that. (With hydro electric power available, Alcoa planned Kitimat as a garden city to become more than just a company town. And it is!)

Arial View of Kitimat BC and the Douglas Channel Beyond
Kitimat aerial of townsite and Douglas Channel photo by District of Kitimat is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Aerial view of a Company Town: Kitimat, British Columbia

Today, free market speculation in housing has created a ‘virtual wilderness’ of unaffordability for workers. Alcoa Aluminum, as the first effective ‘government’ in Kitimat, went to great lengths so their workers to see it as an attractive, permanent destination, not a hardship post to be abandoned with pockets full of cash.

Today, in more populated areas of the continent, municipal governments would seem to be making only grudging attempts to overcome the challenge of what are becoming hardship posts for public employees such as teachers. (Although ‘grudging’ may be giving way to ‘anxious but ineffective.’) Why call them hardship posts? Teachers are taking extra jobs to pay for rent, co-sharing accommodation, making ridiculous commutes to distant affordable living, having no leftover money to stay healthy or to holiday, and so on.

And so, ironically, a form of ‘company town’ solution is becoming necessary to attract and keep employees in the new virtual wilderness of affordability.

Read more about one such project  at NBC Los Angeles: Bay Area School District To Provide Affordable Housing For Teachers And Staff

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