High Cost Of Homes In California Becoming An Affordability Crisis

First time home buyers in California have more hurdles than their brethren in other states. Not only to they face the typical hurdles – which are burdensome enough- they also have to deal with mind-numbing home prices that would make any first time home owner‘s head spin.

Point Reyes Light has the story:

Marin is considering a host of measures to address the county’s growing affordable housing shortage as rents and home prices continue to skyrocket.

The county hosted a workshop to discuss ways to address the problem on Tuesday, focusing on three general strategies: turning existing housing into afffordable housing, new construction such as second units, and tenant’s rights including rent stabilization—which limits rent increases—and requiring just cause for evictions.

County staffers painted a bleak picture in a memo prepared before the workshop. The average price of a rental in Marin in 2005 was $1,478 a month. This past June, the average was $2,465—an increase of about 66 percent. To meet the conventional standard of affordability, often defined as spending less than 30 percent of income on rent, a household needs to make almost $100,000 a year. To buy a home requires an income of at least $200,000.

Thirty-seven percent of responders to a county-sponsored survey of renters and landlords this past spring said their rent had risen by at least $100 a month in the past year, and 59 percent said they were planning to move out because of the cost of rent. Many respondents also said they have already been forced to move because rents rose so high and so quickly. Many teachers and civil servants said they struggled or simply could not afford to buy homes or rent in Marin.

Planners came up with a host of theoretical ways that the county could address the problem. For example, ideas for converting existing housing into affordable housing include buying up houses at market rate value, offering landlords incentives to accept Section 8 vouchers by committing to help pay for repairs or rent lost if the unit goes vacant. Planners also suggested adopting a program implemented in Napa County, which offers assistance—such as contributing a down payment—to help some people who work in Marin buy a home.

One Legal Aid of Marin employee called for increased tenants rights during public testimony, saying that there were few ways to help clients without protections. “Without laws…we can’t do our jobs effectively,” she said.

But many solutions come with big problems. Buying up market-rate houses or offering incentives to landlords are pricey solutions. A county fund for affordable housing projects currently has about $5 million—not much given that the average price of a home in Marin is about $1 million.

>> read the full story at ptreyeslight.com

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