Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 28, 2014

Affordable housing and homelessness

by Michael Fischetti and Marilyn Winkle

In the last two years the number of homeless people in Mountain View has increased by almost 300 percent.

Recent articles in the Voice have draw attention to several long-term Mountain View residents who have been forced to move due to rising rents. Concern about the increasing displacement of our Mountain View neighbors seems worthy of discussion. There is an ongoing community-wide discussion in the paper and online about the wisdom of creating more jobs without provision for adequate housing.

Many of those who are displaced have lived and worked in our city for many years. They prepare food, wash dishes, clean homes, mow lawns and change hotel bed sheets — not to mention building houses, teaching our children, and policing our streets. These women and men have long-term family and social connections and contribute to our vibrant city. When forced to move because of skyrocketing rents, they often lose the social and economic benefits associated with being close to family and connected to a community, leaving them even more vulnerable.

When displaced, women and men can look for less expensive housing (hard to find), send their children to work to help pay for food, double up with family or friends, move to another city or, as some have had to do, move into their cars or RVs or onto the streets.

The majority of people who are displaced lose their housing because of conversions and sudden large increases in rent. Exorbitant rents are real. The new Madera complex on West Evelyn by Caltrain is 100 percent occupied with rents for 2-bedroom units ranging from $5,263 to $6,711 a month.

The 2013 Santa Clara County Homeless Survey conservatively estimates the number of homeless in the county at approximately 8,000. This is sad and sobering considering that we live in the second richest county in the U.S. but have the fifth largest number of homeless per capita among the 3,100 counties in America.

From 2011 to 2013 the number of homeless in Mountain View has increased from 37 to 139. There has been about a 130 percent increase in Cupertino, and increases in Saratoga, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Homelessness is the tip of the iceberg, the so-called "canary in the mine," reflecting the worst fate for those displaced as rents are raised to accommodate those able and willing to pay more.

If more jobs increase housing demand we can expect continued rising rents and more unaffordable housing and more displaced Mountain View residents. The lives of real people are affected by policy decisions (precise plans, city council votes and so on). These friends and neighbors are essential components of the social and economic fabric of our city. Is it responsible for our elected officials to plan for thousands of new jobs and residents and ignore the needs of the current residents who voted for them?

A final thought for those with children: Will your children be able to afford to live in this wonderful city?

Michael Fischetti M.D. and Marilyn Winkleby, Ph.D. volunteer at Hope's Corner Family Kitchen in the Trinity United Methodist Church, 748 Mercy St., Mountain View.

Comments

Posted by Hugh Janus, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

This is called "trickle-down poverty" and is a result of the 0bama Depression. Forward comrades, to a future of mutually-assured poverty!


Posted by Steve, a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Yes, this is an expensive area. Other than than rapidly increasing density, this is pretty much paradise! Who wouldn't want to live here? There's huge demand, but limited supply, so by 'law' prices will rise. But as long as we continue to subsidize poverty, there will be an endless supply of impoverished bobbing along the bottom. The less inconvenient homelessness becomes, the larger the ranks of the homeless will grow.
And reading carefully: Don't try to slip construction workers, teachers and policeman into the low income category.
Lastly: "Will your children be able to live in this wonderful city?"
...pretending for a moment that Mtn View is still a "wonderful" city, yes our children will be able to afford living here. Under two conditions: WE personally invested in this "wonderful" city by becoming homeowners, and no greedy tax mongers repeal prop 13.


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