Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Three Causes to Alameda County's Housing Crisis: Declining Wages, Low Supply, No Money

By Darwin BondGraham
Wed, May 18, 2016 at 4:28 PM

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The housing crisis in Alameda County is getting worse and it's caused by three factors.

Declining wages for half the population, a massive shortfall in the construction of affordably priced homes and apartments, and the evaporation of state and federal funds to build new housing is doing serious harm to East Bay renters.

That's according to a new report released by the nonprofit California Housing Partnership Corporation.

According to the report, cuts in state and federal funding have caused Alameda County's investment in affordable housing to decline by $105 million annually since 2008, a 68 percent reduction.

As a result, the county is now short 60,911 affordable housing units just for the lowest income renter households who earn less than 50 percent of the area's median income.

Median rents have increased by 19 percent, while the average renter household's income has fallen by 4 percent.

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The average worker in Alameda County now needs to be paid $43.54 an hour to afford the average market rent. But there are hundreds of thousands of workers making far less than this amount. While some cities like Oakland and Emeryville have recently increased their minimum wages, even these pay boosts are too low to make up the gap.

Affordable housing developers are witnessing the crisis in the form of avalanches of thousands of applications for new affordable housing developments.

"The need is great and impossible to fully meet with current resources," said Beth Fraker of Mid-Pen Housing, a developer and property manager that builds affordable housing in the Bay Area. "We routinely receive thousands of applicants for every new community we open. As an example, we’re in the midst of leasing up a brand new 64 unit community in Fremont for which we received over 4,000 applications."

Alameda County is considering a $500 million housing bond which could make up for some of the shortfall in affordable housing production. But most experts say the real solution's price tag is in the many billions of dollars.

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