"We want to stay here, but we're just terrified that we'll be pushed out" by rent hikes, said Ravit Ortiz, the treasurer for Bubb School's Parent-Teacher Association whose husband works at Google. "I don't think it's fair to tear our child away from an incredible community and start all over again."
According to data firm Real Facts, average asking rents in Mountain View are on the rise, with an average increase of 12.4 percent between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. The average rent for a three-bedroom apartment was $3,387 in March, up from $2,954 in 2012.
Ortiz said that Silicon Valley's housing shortage is forcing her to consider the possibility of working and spending time away from her kids — just to pay rising rents in Mountain View. Downsizing is out of the question, as she jokes that her duplex unit has rooms as small as some of the bedroom displays in Ikea.
"I love helping out all the kids, I'm an executive board member on the PTA," Ortiz said. "It's fun, it's wonderful, but I just feel it's looming that eventually we won't be able to do it anymore. Our landlord did communicate with us that our rent would mostly keep going up."
The rising cost was made clear to Carol Williams (we've changed her name to avoid repercussions from her landlord) when her family had to leave their home last year and find another one within the school district their three children attend. To pay their new rent of nearly $5,000 a month (their old place was $4,200), Williams said she and her husband — a manager at Apple — have had to dip into retirement and their kids' college funds. "We don't even have money to live from the income my husband makes. We have to live off stock and savings just to live here. We're thinking maybe we need to move to another state."
Williams said their home was the cheapest suitable place they could find south of the railroad tracks. She said everything that was cheaper was too small for their three kids.
When your kids are in public school, "everything shrinks down into this very localized situation and your options are much more limited," Williams said. "You are under the stress of, "Oh my gosh, I might need to pull my kids out of their comfortable environment where they are thriving and put them somewhere else.'"
The high rents have been a shock to her family, having moved from Michigan four years ago. They had owned a 3,000-square-foot home there which cost $240,000. That would buy a Silicon Valley home a little bigger than shack, Williams said.
A search on Craigslist shows that three- and four-bedroom homes typically rent for $4,000 to $5,500 a month in southwestern Mountain View.
"I think there should be a cap on how much money you can charge for a house," Williams said. "There's no rhyme or reason, it's insane almost."
Williams is acutely aware of what is being pointed out by the group, the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View: there is a housing shortage in the city and the region that's driven by yet another tech industry boom. "The problem with Mountain View is there's not a whole lot" of housing options, Williams said.
Like everyone else the Voice interviewed, Williams would prefer to pay a mortgage rather than rent, but because of the intense competition for a small number of homes, "there's no way we could afford (to buy a home)," she said. "You have to put $500,000 down. People are so desperate they are (buying) with cash. Unless you have a huge amount of money in cash you aren't even going to get it."
Some parents are wondering if they should move further south, and commute. But Ortiz says her family's quality of life has improved because her husband has been able to commute by bike to his job at Google.
"One of the reasons we love living here is my husband can actually bike to work which has improved his health tremendously and it's safe because there's bike lanes, there's trails," Ortiz said.
"Some things that I've heard people talk about is moving to San Jose or down to the Morgan Hill or Gilroy area where rent is cheaper, then sending their kids to private schools," said Bubb parent Erin Hung. "I wouldn't want to send my child to private school because I like to have the diversity that Bubb has."
Two families said the only way they can afford to live in Mountain View is because their landlords have been generous in not raising their rent. But these families wonder how long that will last.
"If our landlord came and doubled (the rent) we would still be getting an OK deal," said Hung, adding that she's saving money in case it increases. Not wanting to give the landlord any reason to raise the rent, she said, "We've had a couple things break here and there, we just repair it and don't bother the landlord."
Lauren Bond, who has kids in local schools and works as a nurse, said owning a home in Mountain View is now a "pipe dream."
"We are two full-time, well-paid, hard-working individuals and if we had not stumbled upon this wonderful home in Mountain View (and a rent amount that is ungodly low) we wouldn't have survived life in the Silicon Valley," Bond said in an email. "We have done this for three years and as of now, this has reached a level of disappointment such that our desire to own a home here is a pipe dream. It is sad because we love Mountain View, we work for the hospital, we support the community and we love the school district, but we are not willing to subject our children to a life in a box, with a green square for a yard. It is our realization, however, that it is also because of no other choices."
Williams said the lease for her home is about to expire, and she says she is "freaking out" about the possibility of having to abandon her holistic healing business to take a higher paying job she doesn't really want.
Less-affluent families are making much bigger sacrifices.
"I was actually in the classroom and I was talking to one of the kids and he was like, 'Yeah, I am sleeping on the floor with my brother,'" Ortiz said. "You try not to show your facial expression but it's just heartbreaking."
The housing crisis, she said. is affecting everybody, across the board. "I just feel for everybody."