Across the country overall the homeless population is down. So, why are many of these statistics rising in the Bay Area? When it comes to the issue of homelessness, one thing that can't be ignored, is the lack of affordable housing, especially here in the Bay Area.
With the tech boom and the popularity of the Bay Area, all home prices are soaring. "I originally lived in the city of Mountain View, and then I got priced out from there and I moved to the city of Santa Clara, got priced out from there, moved to Sunnyvale, got priced out from there," said Pilar Lorenzana, a housing advocate.
The American Dream of home ownership and the California Dream of easy living is in a severe drought that has lasted for decades and there's no economic El Nino to end it. : I had a kindergarten teacher, wonderful teacher who got married in May. They couldn't afford a house here so they moved to San Diego so I lost really great teacher," said Elementary School Principal Stephanie Palmeri Farias. "People of color, African Americans, Latinos. we don't see a future here because of the rent increase," said Vanessa Bulnes of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
In fact, says Matt Regan, Policy Director for the Bay Area Council, a consortium of the Bay Areas biggest employers, we keep falling further and further behind. "In the last decade we've permitted about one new home for every 8 jobs we've created. As a state, California needs to create about 180,000 units of homes a year just to keep pace with natural population growth. Were averaging about eighty," said Mr. Regan.
That red hot competition has skyrocketed prices. About 311,000 California housing units have been built in past decade. But, during that time California's population has grown by 3.25 million; ten times more new people than housing units.
The number crunchers at the California Association of Realtors calculate that overall Bay Area single-family homes are now 8% more expensive than a year ago; far, far higher in Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo counties. Today, the median Bay Area home price is about $909,000, 64% higher than California's already high statewide average. " When we have significant numbers of working families living in their cars, we have a crisis, said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "The rent increases we're seeing now are the highest we've ever seen," added Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
With out even considering the chronically homeless, lining streets and freeway underpasses with tent cities, affordable home builder Steven Marshall, founder of Little House on the Trailer, says that has led many to seek out or create a wide variety of illegal living spaces from warehouses, to garages, to run down RVs, to shacks and sheds in backyards.
"They may well comprise 25% of our housing stock," said Mr. Marshall. Marshall says city and county building, zoning and code enforcement departments know full well that it's going on. "They generally have a policy: if no one complains, they're grateful that that house exists," he said. "We know the housing costs are killing people and it's choking folks and we've got to do more to get housing built," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.
A scientific statewide poll, just last month, commissioned by Advocates for Affordable Housing, shows the majority of Californians are willing to support as much a $9 billion in housing bonds to build affordable housing. But, even if you could get affordable housing units down to $100,000 each, that $9 billion would create 90,000 units, half of what we need just to keep up with population growth. However, that does not include the cost of land, utilities and the many fees communities demand to permit those units. "This delivered house would be one third of the total," said Marshall.
That is to say nothing of the homeowner and citizen resistance, fearing everything from reduced property values to a diminution in their quality of life, that reduced San Jose's 99 potential sites for affordable homes to just two. "People that have what they've got, they're happy with the current situation. "People believe that affordable housing, for instance, negatively impacts the value of their home, That's patently false. We know that building affordable housing in communities has no negative impact on home values," said the Bay Area Council's Matt Regan.