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?