Despite the Bay Area’s natural beauty and booming job market, nearly half of its residents now want to get out, citing a creeping disillusionment with the high cost of housing.
Forty-six percent of Bay Area residents surveyed said they are likely to move out of the region in the next few years — up from 40 percent last year and 34 percent in 2016, according to a poll released Sunday by business-backed public policy advocacy group the Bay Area Council.
The numbers show a disturbing trend in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets: Workers desperate for a better quality of life and without housing options will go elsewhere, potentially plunging the region into a financial downturn.
“They couldn’t be more clear what the big problems are — and it is exclusively about the cost of housing,” said John Grubb, chief operating officer for the Bay Area Council. “They don’t see…enough action coming, and so they’re looking at taking matters into their own hands. And unfortunately, what they’re going to take into their hands is the steering wheel of a U-Haul to go somewhere else where there’s a better combination of salary and lower housing costs.”
Bay Area home prices have been climbing for six years, setting another record in April, when the median sale price hit $850,000 — up 13 percent from a year ago, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic. Rents are soaring too, and workers are forced to move farther away to find affordable housing and commute on already crowded Bay Area roads and freeways to get to their jobs.
Meanwhile, recent efforts by policy makers, affordable housing organizations, developers and others apparently have yet to make a dent in residents’ concerns.
The Bay Area Council has thrown its support behind several housing-focused bills that it says will help, including SB 831, which eliminates some fees for building in-law units; SB 1227, intended to increase the supply of affordable student housing; and SB 828, which would force cities to rezone land to allow more homes to be built.
Researchers have been worrying about the Bay Area exodus for some time. A recent report from Joint Venture Silicon Valley found more people left Silicon Valley in both 2016 and 2017 than in any year since 2006. Still, Silicon Valley is gaining more residents than it’s losing — the region welcomed 44,732 newcomers between July 2015 and July 2017, and lost 44,102. But the ominous new data from the Bay Area Council suggests that could change quickly, as the out-migration shows no sign of slowing down.
When asked to pinpoint the most important problem facing the Bay Area, 42 percent of those surveyed said housing — a dramatic jump from 28 percent last year. Meanwhile, 18 percent said traffic and congestion, 14 percent cited poverty and homelessness, and 12 percent said the cost of living.
Those problems spell serious disillusionment for Bay Area residents. Fifty-five percent of residents polled said they feel the Bay Area has “gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track,” compared to 42 percent last year.
“It’s so expensive,” said 38-year-old software engineer Travis Dobbs, who moved his family from Berkeley to Portland last year. “My wife and I both make good money, relatively speaking, and we can’t afford a house there.”
Of those who are likely to move out in the near future, 24 percent of the 1,000 registered voters surveyed in the nine-county Bay Area said they plan to stay in California, including 5 percent who said they would head to Sacramento. Texas, Oregon and Nevada were the most popular out-of-state destinations, capturing 10 percent, 9 percent and 8 percent of potential movers, respectively.