An affordable housing crisis is driving families to leave Silicon Valley or face the increasing likelihood of becoming a part of the region’s working poor. Take Seana O’Shaughnessy. Seana has lived in the Bay Area for 19 years but is now in the process of leaving for Chico with her entire family. The reason? Housing costs have simply given her no other choice.
“I love the Bay Area. I love the community, culture, diversity, and its opportunities. I love the access to the ocean, mountains and San Francisco. It is such an amazing city,” she said. “But it’s gotten a little crazy right now. We decided we didn’t want to be slaves to our house and have nothing else.”
Quite simply, like Seana, families find themselves driven from their lifetime homes in search of affordable housing. Making $10 per hour and living in a city where median rents are $2,457 and median home sale prices come in at $900,000 is unimaginable, yet this is today’s reality for a rising number of long-time residents here in Santa Clara County.
How can our community resolve this growing problem?
Solutions that increase access, availability, and sustainability of affordable housing are currently being explored throughout Silicon Valley in an effort to counter the effects of gentrification. There is a growing movement to address the rise of the homeless and the invisible poor. These are working class individuals who are living on the edge of poverty and struggle to find long-term housing that is affordable.
Santa Clara County is at the center of one of the nation’s largest housing affordability crises. In 2014, the median price of a Silicon Valley home increased $52,801 over the 2013 median and is more than $360,000 higher than the median for all of CA. Over the past four years, housing costs have continued to skyrocket, forcing many middle-income families and individuals to leave the region in search of more affordable housing and new job opportunities. While 54% of first-time home buyers across CA can afford a median-priced home, only 44% can afford a median-priced home in Santa Clara County. And for renters, finding affordable housing is far out of reach. In 2014, the Valley saw rental rates that were $645 per month higher than the average CA rent and $1,198 per month higher than average rents in the US.
Silicon Valley promises a quality of life that residents are finding they can no longer afford. While Santa Clara County has the highest median household income in the nation at $93,500, income gains prove to be inadequate in keeping up with housing costs that are rising at a faster rate. In fact, while median income rose by 3.6% ($3,203 per year or $267 per month) from 2012-2013, the average rental rates far surpassed these gains, coming in at 8.7%. When housing costs come in at more than 35% of income, this is known as a significant housing burden. For the last three years, 40% of the Silicon Valley population have endured “a significant housing burden.” That percentage is expected to rise along with the rising housing costs.
How can our community work together to help address this growing problem? Finding new solutions to improve accessibility, availability, and sustainability of Affordable Housing is a critical initiative currently being explored throughout the region with ever increasing levels of urgency.