Frustration with the Bay Area’s housing market has surged in 2018, hitting a four-year high, according to new data that reveals just how widespread the struggle to afford lodging really is.
Fifty-three percent of voters said it’s “much harder” to find a place to live compared to a year ago — up from 36 percent of voters in 2017, according to a poll released Wednesday by business-backed public policy advocacy group the Bay Area Council. The data quantifies the unsettling trend residents have been experiencing for months — the housing shortage has expanded to impact nearly everyone in the Bay Area, from fast-food workers to tech employees.
“It’s a classic supply/demand mismatch, and it’s having societal impacts,” said Matt Regan, senior vice president of public policy for the Bay Area Council. “Far too many people are considering leaving the Bay Area, which is tragic, and those who are staying are having to pay higher prices than ever before.”
The data comes on the heels of a Bay Area Council poll released Sunday that showed nearly half the region’s residents said they are likely to move away in the next few years, largely because of the high cost of housing.
In the poll released Wednesday, 76 percent of voters surveyed said it’s gotten “much” or “somewhat” harder to find housing — up from 64 percent last year. The poll, conducted online by Oakland-based EMC Research from March 20 through April 3, surveyed 1,000 registered voters in the nine-county Bay Area.
The high cost of housing recently prompted Angie Chua and her husband to uproot their lives, moving out of the two-bedroom Santa Clara condo they’d lived in for 12 years, and into a 218-square-foot Airstream trailer. They made the move after realizing it had become untenable for Chua, who quit her tech job last year to pursue her dream of being an artist, and her husband, who works for Tesla, to continue paying $3,000 a month in rent.
“So much of the income that my husband and I were generating was going to housing,” said Chua, who now runs bobo design studio, selling clothing and accessories she designs herself, out of the MOMENT pop-up retail incubator in San Jose.
The couple bought an Airstream for $52,000, parked it in Chua’s parents’ yard in San Jose, and moved in their two dachshunds and the small fraction of their possessions that would fit into the tiny space. In the process, the couple redefined what success in the Bay Area means for them — but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tough adjustment.
“At 37, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m moving back home,” Chua said.
Nevertheless, Chua, who was born and raised in Silicon Valley, says downsizing has allowed them to stay in an area they otherwise couldn’t afford.
Chua and her husband aren’t alone — 41 percent of voters surveyed said they spend more than the recommended 30 percent of their household income on housing.
As housing woes intensify, more residents say they’re willing to do something to fix the problem. Seventy-three percent of voters said they supported policies that would make it easier to build housing near transit hubs and commercial centers, compared to 68 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, 29 percent of homeowners said they would consider adding an in-law unit to their property, up from 25 percent last year.
Regan hopes politicians will see those numbers, realize there is broad support for additional residential development, and craft policies to help make that construction happen. There’s no way to end the region’s dire housing shortage, and the sky-high prices that go with it, without building more housing, he said.
“There’s definitely a willingness … of the Bay Area’s residents to see more homes built,” Regan said. “Unfortunately when it gets to the political arena, it’s generally those 25 percent of opponents who tend to show up at meetings and make their voice heard.”
On the other hand, the share of residents willing to welcome that new development into their own neighborhoods dropped — from 62 percent in 2017 to 59 percent this year.
Meanwhile, families trying to buy a home in the Bay Area continue to struggle. Ryan Lillis and his wife closed on a new house in Dublin in April, with help from a down payment loan from Unison, a San Francisco-based company that helps clients afford down payments on new homes or tap into their existing homes’ equity. But due to the hyper-competitive market, finding that home was a long, emotionally tolling road.
“It was a lot of up and down,” Lillis said. “It just felt like we got our hopes up, and then we got outbid.”
The grueling process forced the couple to gradually pare back the list of attributes they wanted in their dream home.
“That was tough,” Lillis said.