“I wish they had taught me that in school.”
It’s a line that real estate agent Kella McCaskill has heard a lot from people in her community when talking about housing.
From mortgage deals to down payment assistance, to rent-to-own options and savings plans, McCaskill said many people, especially those who don’t have a relative to whom turn, don’t start thinking about real estate and financial literacy until well into adulthood. In a housing market like Tampa Bay’s, that’s years too late.
This is something McCaskill is looking to change.
One Wednesday afternoon, after music class and before starting English homework, students at LinaBean Academy, a private school in east Tampa, filled a small classroom and started doodling. equations on notebooks. McCaskill stood in front of the room.
Twice a month, she visits the school for one-hour workshops on real estate. The theme of the lessons changes each time they meet, but the goal remains to get students thinking about their financial future and to normalize conversations about housing affordability and financial hardship as the city exchange.
“We want our kids to think about the real world,” said Ischolina Williams, who founded the school in 2016. “We teach life lessons.”
This particular Wednesday, McCaskill spoke with students about rent control, housing assistance programs, and how much it’s okay to spend on housing.
“What is the average cost of a bedroom in Tampa? ” she asked.
Anari Dula, 14, opened a bright pink laptop and opened the Rent Cafe website.
“Like $1800 a month,” he said.
“Right. It’s just a bedroom,” McCaskill said. “Now the rule is you don’t want to spend more than 30% of your income on housing. So how much should you earn afford to live here right now?”
The students’ eyes widened.
“Exactly. That’s the problem,” McCaskill said.
Williams said she started LinaBean Academy to serve children with special needs, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, or those who face barriers to learning resulting home challenges. She said she sees the school as an investment in the future of her community, where child poverty rates are high and opportunities are sometimes limited.
Most students attending the school receive tax-funded scholarships, she said, and rising rental costs have been a big problem.
“We had several kids who became homeless at our school,” Williams said. “We try to make sure they understand what’s going on around them. We want to provide them with information so they know they can plan for the future they want. »
Amaryss Robinson, 13, said that’s what she loves so much about the real estate workshops run by McCaskill.
“It’s important for us to learn this now because when we get older, we won’t just have to take care of ourselves, we will also have to take care of our parents,” Robinson said. “We have to focus on knowing what to do. Because we have already learned from the mistakes of others.
Workshops go beyond classroom lessons. Williams said she wants students to be civically engaged and understand the role their government plays. Earlier this year, students from the school took a trip to ask Tallahassee lawmakers to take action to make housing in Florida more affordable and slow rent increases.
“We are learning, we are responsible, but how are lawmakers going to help,” Robinson asked. “Because we are in crisis right now and everyone needs to do their part to make sure people can afford to live.”