Maybe software engineers can afford up to $100,000 a year in rent for a two-bedroom apartment. But the everyday workers who have found reasonably priced housing here over the years are being priced out. Even the lower level $3,500-a-month apartments are beyond the reach of many residents, who would have to make well over $100,000 a year if they held to the principle of paying no more than 30 percent of their salary for housing.
Today, according to a white paper on affordable housing in Santa Clara County, a four-person household making 50 percent or less of the area's median annual income ($53,050) could afford to pay $1,326 a month. In fact, the study found that the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the county is $2,467 a month. The report added that in the third quarter of this year, Santa Clara County had the highest rent rate in the state.
Unfortunately, the study also found that funds available for cities and the county to build affordable housing dropped a whopping 64 percent in the last five years, from $126 million in 2008 to $47 million this year. The state's take-back of redevelopment monies from cities was a major factor in the loss of these housing funds. Instead, cities and counties use impact fees and other funding to establish savings accounts that then can be leveraged to build affordable housing, like the Franklin Street project just completed by the city.
The study also found that lower income residents are hanging on in the area by paying a larger and larger portion of their total income for rent. In Santa Clara County, for example, 44 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their wages in rent, and 17.7 percent pay more than 50 percent. In addition, the high housing costs have increased overcrowding in small apartments and homelessness.
There is state legislation designed to address the affordable housing shortage which is used by the Association of Bay Area Governments to develop a regional housing need allocation (RHNA) for eight-year periods. Cities use the formula to zone areas for the types of housing that will be needed through 2022. For Santa Clara County, the formula predicts that more than 16,000 units of affordable housing will be needed in the next eight years. But with just $47 million available, only 313 units could be subsidized each year, or 2,500 over eight years. That would be be far short of the 16,158-unit goal called for by the state, which would take a fund of more than $200 million.
While there may be some other sources of revenue, it is unlikely that anywhere near adequate funding for affordable housing will materialize soon in Mountain View. At this point, city officials should ask themselves if it is time to charge much more hefty impact fees on new office construction that would be earmarked for affordable housing. Without additional funding, where are companies like Google going to find employees to work in their kitchens and perform janitorial service? It is time for the business and tech community to step up and help the city develop projects where rents are far below $8,000 a month.
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