Silicon Valley Bay Area, a Housing Affordability Crisis Engulfing Everyone

Ideas and Issues
People living in their trailers in Silicon Valley (John Orr / Daily News)

San Francisco     I have housing market fatigue.  Everyone rich, poor, and in the middle have a housing prices horror story throughout northern California.  No one seems untouched from the impact of this crisis, and it dominates almost every conversation.

  • A friend told me she was visiting Birmingham for the first time to spent time with a 30-year long friend of hers who was a lifelong San Francisco resident who had moved to Alabama to be closer to her daughter after being priced out of the city.
  • A colleague told me his house was now appraised at $2 million, but his unit in the basement was being written up for ceilings that were under height and would cost hundreds of thousands to get to code.The solution turned out to have the specs designed and submitted to the city for a construction permit, and then to renew it every two years for lack of financing.
  • Another told me his unit was declared illegal by a disgruntled neighbor but after a notice was affixed to his door he called the city inspector in San Francisco and finally on the phone asked was there any way to “fix” this problem and was advised by the inspector that he could “deny entry,” so he did four years ago and that was that, indicating how much city employees empathize with longtime residents.
  • A school in San Jose buys up any house that comes up for sale around its borders for cash in order to provide housing for teachers. Another created a program to match down payments with that of teachers so they could buy.  Another was buying an apartment building with eight-units to house beginning teachers.
  • Someone else who had bought a condo in San Francisco told me of building meetings they were having regularly now to deal with fears that maintenance fees would force them out.
  • The neighboring cities of Santa Clara and San Jose sued each other over claims that large developments would create traffic and housing problems, and finally settled to allow them to move forward.
  • Apple ditched plans for a huge expansion and consolidation of its office space near its new Steve Jobs designed spaceship location because they didn’t believe their workers could find housing, and instead were adding over a million  into a seven building campus in Austin, Texas, likely moving the housing crisis there, hundreds of workers are filing transfer papers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t touch what’s happening to lower income and working families.  Home ownership is an impossible dream. Affordable rents and shorter commutes are much the same.

This isn’t sustainable, and no one seems to have a solution.