The Impact of Down Payment Assistance

How does Landed measure impact?

At Landed, we believe that helping keep great educators near the communities they serve is a pretty important goal in and of itself. But, we are often asked what social impact we think we are creating with our down payment assistance programs. We thought it might make sense to expand on this question in a blog post!

Impact on Retention

We have a retention crisis in our schools today. In high-need school districts, turnover can reach over 30% a year. Remember the stories of professors that would say “look to your right, look to your left, one of you three will be gone by the end of the year”? Well that’s actually what’s happening in school districts across the country. Can you imagine running a functional organization with that kind of turnover?

Retention and School Quality

High turnover is very bad for a few reasons:

  1. Teachers that leave usually have more experience than the teachers that replace them. Per the research, more experienced teachers are generally better teachers.
  2. Even if the experience is the same between the leaving teacher and replacing teacher, turnover is bad. Turnover is disruptive and expensive. As explained in this post, the $10,000 - $20,000 per lost teacher could be better used to increase educator compensation or invest in programs to improve student outcomes. And the disruption from turnover affects every teacher at the school, not just the new ones.

In the literature, we say that a good teacher raises student achievement by 0.1 standard deviations. I find a sports analogy is helpful to understand what this means. Imagine you have a ‘good’ coach that produces 0.1 standard deviation better outcomes than an average coach. In a race of 100 people, an average runner would come in 50th with an average coach. But if this average runner had a good coach, they would come in 46th even if they practiced for exactly the same amount of time!

But school is different from a race because knowledge builds year after year. So learning more in a given year helps you in the next year, and so on and so forth. This is why experienced teachers are so important to education. Take a look at the different teacher attributes that impact student performance in mathematics.


So when an experienced teacher leaves and is replaced with a new teacher, all students suffer. In one of the districts we just started working with, the average experience of their teacher base is declining by 0.5 years every year.

How Can We Make Sense of This All?

At Landed, we’ve created a Student Achievement Impact Score (SAIS). We take all of the educators that use Landed and ask them if they would have left their school without down payment support. Then for every year that we help them stay, we estimate how that translates to improved student achievement. So far, the results are encouraging, but we’ll need a few more years of data before we can confidently say how much better off students are as a result of down payment assistance programs.

Other Impact Measures

But improving student outcomes is not the only thing that happens when you help educators live closer to the communities in which they serve. We measure two additional effects.

Wealth Building

Having wealth is ultimately about having freedom. When you are free not to worry about having your landlord renew your lease (and moving your children mid-year), you are free to plan for the future. We believe that having communities filled with residents that are free to plan and engage are stronger, more resilient communities. We measure wealth impacts by asking our participants when they otherwise would have been able to buy a home. At that moment in time, we’ll measure their net worth relative to if they would have continued renting.

Improved Environment

Being able to live closer to work means a decreased commute. While a decreased commute might mean more time for extracurricular activities at school, it also means less money spent on gas, on car repairs and less pollutants in our air. For second- (or third-) time homebuyers, we measure the environmental impacts of down payment assistance by asking for their old address and measuring the decrease in daily time spent on the road.

For now, these are are key gauges of success. Over the years, we’ll develop a better understanding of where these programs are helpful, and where they don’t have the impact we anticipated. Our impact framework is also always improving and we welcome more ideas on how we can improve the robustness of our impact metric framework. Don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] with any thoughts!

Limits to Down Payment Assistance Programs

We are the first to say that down payment assistance programs are not going to solve school turnover. The sad reality is that down payment assistance programs like Landed only end up helping a portion of our educators. Many educators, especially single parents working in at-need districts, or early childhood educators, are just not paid enough money to ever afford a home near the communities they serve. That is a problem we all need to fix together.