Rent vs Income:
The Affordability Gap WIDENS

Incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living here

Low Income in Marin is $105,350 per year

Bay Area media recently reported that a Marin family of four making $105,350 a year now qualifies as “low income.” But the more important news is that Marin’s “affordability gap” — the difference between what people can afford to pay for housing and what it costs to rent — is getting wider.

Low Income: what does it mean? 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines who qualifies for Federal affordable housing programs on the basis of income and family size. Those who fall into the “Low Income” category and below are eligible for assistance.  Based upon last year’s median income level for a family of four in Marin, $115,300, the table above tells the story for this year.

Based on the accepted standard that to be affordable, housing should cost no more than 30% of a household’s annual income, the Very Low Income family of four with two adults – working in jobs that Marinites interact with frequently – can afford $1,647 per month for a 2-bedroom rental. Here’s the problem: the average 2-bedroom Marin apartment goes for $2,656 per month.  With a vacancy rate of less than 3%, even if this family were willing to spend nearly half their income on an apartment, would they be able to find one?

Who are the very low income workers, and what’s happening with their incomes? The short answer is, they are people we depend on: child caregivers, home health aides, janitors, cooks, bank tellers, and library clerks . Although most workers did receive at least modest pay increases over the past five years, the baselines are so low that in real dollars the increases don’t amount to enough to make a difference in a family’s life.

Rents are a different story. The average monthly rent rose 73% from 2012 to 2016. Clearly average market rate rents have risen much faster than incomes since 2012. The affordability gap between what very low income workers like preschool teachers, security guards and waitresses can afford to pay and rental costs has gotten much worse in the past five years. The graphic at right looks at the incomes of a waitress and a nursing assistant.

We depend on service workers to nurse our seniors, teach pre-school, clerk at the corner market. The need for affordable housing that lets service workers live in Marin is urgent.

San Rafael City Council Denies Appeal of Permit for transitional housing within Dominican Sister’s Lourdes Convent

This means that the Sisters are permitted to proceed with adapting a small area for a small residential unit witha tiny impact on the earth, indeed a sustainable reuse of an underutilized building. MEHC is proud to have supported this application from the beginning, and we are especially pleased to join the chorus of “hallelujahs” at its successful resolution.

Victory Village Affordable Senior Housing in faces one more reading and vote at Fairfax Town Council.

Town Staff, Planning Commission, the developer, affordable housing advocates, and the Town Council itself have dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” to hear and address community concerns and advice. The second and final reading of the ordinances and documents will take place on June 7, 7 pm  at the meeting of the Fairfax Town Council. The first vote was 4-0 in favor, with Councilmember Barbara Coler recusing herself due to proximity of her home. It’s not a done deal yet. One more vote to go, and advocates are not letting up. Please attend the upcoming meeting to show your support, and hopefully to thank the Council, the big-hearted community of Fairfax, and everyone concerned for helping to make this ambitious and important project possible after 5 long years of planning.