Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Poll: Housing costs troubled Bay Area residents more than elsewhere in state

- By Ethan Varian evarian@bayareanew­sgroup.com

As the Bay Area struggles to confront a chronic housing shortage and milliondol­lar home listings, a new poll indicates residents here are more concerned than most California­ns about the high cost of housing.

The survey by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California found 80% of Bay Area residents see housing affordabil­ity as a big problem in their communitie­s, while 74% identify homelessne­ss as a major concern. Statewide, 70% of people said both were serious issues.

“It's definitely a critically important issue for our state leaders to take a hard look at, especially given the population decline that California has seen in the past couple of years,” Rachel Lawler, a survey analyst with PPIC, said during a webinar presenting the poll findings Thursday.

In 2021, the San Francisco metro area — which includes the East Bay and Peninsula — lost more than 116,000 residents, or 2.5% of its population, according to census data. The South Bay also lost tens of thousands of residents.

The poll comes as the vast majority of Bay Area cities and counties failed to meet the state's Tuesday deadline to submit plans to dramatical­ly increase housing across the region — meaning they could miss out on crucial funding and lose control over developmen­t decisions.

State officials, often led by lawmakers from the Bay Area, have phased in a number of new laws and policies in recent years aimed at making it easier to build more housing and cracking down on local government­s that have long resisted growth.

“Many polls now show that housing and homelessne­ss is a top-two issue for California­ns throughout the state, which is why so many legislator­s are focused on this issue now,” David Garcia, policy director for UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said in an email.

The PPIC survey found widespread agreement on the issue across partisan and demographi­c groups. For the entire state, 72% of Republican­s and Democrats said housing affordabil­ity was a serious issue. African Americans, who experience homelessne­ss at disproport­ionate rates, had the highest level of concern, with 86% agreeing that housing costs are a serious problem and 83% saying the same for homelessne­ss.

Just one in five Bay Area residents can comfortabl­y afford to buy a home in the region, with the median price of a single-family house hitting $1.08 million in December, according to the California Associatio­n of Realtors. At the same time, nearly a quarter of the region's renters spend over 50% of their income on housing costs, according to researcher­s with the Bay Area Equity Atlas.

Statewide, 70% of people said there are more homeless people in their communitie­s now than a year ago, a jump from 58% of survey respondent­s in 2019. During the pandemic, homelessne­ss increased in the counties of Contra Costa (35%), Alameda (22%), San Mateo (20%) and Santa Clara (3%), according to the most recent available data.

Another alarming figure from the poll: 60% of California residents and 63% of those in the Bay Area are very concerned about younger family members not being able to afford a home in the region.

But should the Bay Area build its way out of the deepening crisis? A survey by the Bay Area News Group and Joint Venture Silicon Valley last year found strong resistance to the notion that the region should add more housing, at least if it's built nearby.

When respondent­s were asked if they supported building “significan­t quantities” of new homes of all kinds to help bring down housing costs, 52% agreed, while 32% disagreed. The rest said they didn't know.

Opposition grew when the conversati­on turned to the kinds of homes advocates say are most needed: affordable housing, housing for homeless people and high-density housing around transit. That opposition was even stronger when residents were asked whether they supported more housing near where they live.

Garcia said that while state and local officials are increasing­ly pursuing policies to create more housing and alleviate costs, sometimes in the face of entrenched opposition in their communitie­s, “we're still only building a fraction of the homes needed to simply keep up with demand.”

“This shortcomin­g signals the need for bigger and bold reforms, especially as we head into a downturn that may further stunt the state's housing production progress,” he said.

The poll also found that the economy was a key concern for California residents, with 23% listing it as the biggest issue facing the state. That was followed by homelessne­ss (20%), the environmen­t (6%) and housing affordabil­ity (6%). Two-thirds of respondent­s said they're expecting the state economy to slump in 2023, and three in 10 are concerned about job losses for themselves or a family member in the coming year.

 ?? PHOTO: JANE TYSKA — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP ?? A housing developmen­t is seen near former salt ponds from this drone view in Newark, Calif., on Jan. 27, 2022.
PHOTO: JANE TYSKA — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP A housing developmen­t is seen near former salt ponds from this drone view in Newark, Calif., on Jan. 27, 2022.

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