East Tampa students get lessons in real estate as rents skyrocket | Ezine Daddy

“I wish they had taught me that in school.”

It’s a line real estate agent Kella McCaskill has heard a lot from people in her community when discussing housing.

From mortgage contracts and down payment help to hire-purchase options and savings plans, McCaskill said many people, especially those without a parent to turn to as an example, are only long thinking about real estate and financial education when they are adults. In a housing market like Tampa Bay’s, that’s years too late.

McCaskill wants to change that.

On a Wednesday afternoon, after music class and before English homework began, students at LinaBean Academy, a private school in East Tampa, filled a small classroom and began scribbling equations on notebooks. McCaskill was at the front of the room.

Twice a month she visits the school for one-hour real estate workshops. The subject of the lesson changes each time they meet, but the goal remains to get students thinking about their financial future and normalize conversations about housing affordability and financial difficulties as the city changes.

Local realtor Kella McCaskill teaches a real estate lesson March 23 in Tampa in the context of the changing housing market for LinaBean Academy students.

[ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

“We want our kids to think about the real world,” says Ischolina Williams, who founded the school in 2016. “We teach life lessons.”

This Wednesday, McCaskill spoke to students about rent control, rent support programs, and how much money can be spent on housing.

“How much is an average one-bedroom apartment in Tampa?” she asked.

Anari Dula, 14, opened a pink laptop and went to the Rent Cafe website.

“Around $1,800 a month,” he said.

“Right. That’s just a bedroom,” McCaskill said. “The rule now is that you don’t want to spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing. So how much would you need to make to be able to live here now? “

The students’ eyes widened.

“Exactly. That’s the problem,” McCaskill said.

Amaryss Robinson, 13, takes notes on real estate March 23 in Tampa at LinaBean Academy during a class led by local realtor Kella McCaskill.
Amaryss Robinson, 13, takes notes on real estate March 23 in Tampa at LinaBean Academy during a class led by local realtor Kella McCaskill.

[ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

Williams said she founded LinaBean Academy to help children with special needs, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, or those who face learning barriers due to challenges at home. 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.

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Most students who attend the school receive tax-funded grants, she said, and rising rent costs are a big problem.

“We’ve had several kids who became homeless at our school,” Williams said. “We’re trying 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 appreciates about the real estate workshops McCaskill leads.

“It’s important that we learn this now, because as we get older, not only do we have to take care of ourselves, we also have to take care of our parents,” Robinson said. “We need to focus so we know what to do. Because we have already learned from the mistakes of others.”

The workshops go beyond the lessons in the classroom. Williams said she wants students to get involved in civic engagement and understand the role their government plays. Earlier this year, students from the school took a field trip to ask the Tallahassee legislature to take steps to increase housing in Florida affordable and put the brakes on rent increases.

Amaryss Robinson, 13, listens to a real estate lesson led by local realtor Kella McCaskill on March 23 at LinaBean Academy in Tampa.
Amaryss Robinson, 13, listens to a real estate lesson led by local realtor Kella McCaskill on March 23 at LinaBean Academy in Tampa.

[ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

“We learn, we take responsibility, but how can the legislature help us,” asked Robinson. “Because we are in a crisis right now and everyone has to do their part to ensure that people can afford to live.”

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