bay area

The minimum wage isn’t enough to afford 2-bedroom housing anywhere in America. Even $15 an hour isn’t enough in many of the biggest cities in the United States. According to the Mercury News and the East Bay Times, you need to make more than $64,000 a year to afford any housing at all in the San Francisco Bay Area.

To say California has a crisis of affordable housing is an understatement. It’s the most expensive place to live in the continental United States and population growth dramatically outstrips housing construction. It is so bad, school districts have gotten into the affordable housing business so teachers won’t be homeless or face hours of commute. People in the Bay Area even pay rent to live in vehicles. But new analysis from the Bay Area News Group shows just how bad things have gotten.

“If you look at Redwood City where, in 2012 you could afford a mortgage payment on a home there on less than $90,000,” explained Bay Area News Group government reporter Katy Murphy. “And now, or as of last year, you would have needed over $200,000 to be able to afford, basically the same home… that’s down payment aside. That’s just the mortgage payment.”

The average yearly income of a Redwood City resident is $42,063.

The cost of living is so exorbitant in the Bay Area that by 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development considered a six-figure annual salary low-income. For a family of four, the threshold of “low income” is $117,400 — just a hair below the median income of $118,400.

“There was nowhere last year where you could afford the median rent for an apartment on anything less than $64,000 a year,” said Murphy. “Even if you had two people working minimum wage jobs that paid $15 an hour – which is the minimum wage in some places – you still would not make enough to afford the median rent for an apartment anywhere in the 10-county Bay Area.”

The median household incomes for black, Hispanic or Native American residents in the Bay Area is below the $64,000 threshold needed to afford housing.

“I was also thinking about: well, what about single parents?” said Murphy. “You know, I mean it’s almost like these numbers have gotten so high that you need two incomes… to be able to buy anything. So what happens to people who have children, but also just have one income?”

Across the nation, but especially in California and especially the Bay Area, the cost of ignoring the housing crisis is in clearer focus than ever. For its part, California is pursuing a housing construction boom to help ease the extreme stress the state’s housing is under.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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