Low-income renters in San Joaquin County are spending 63 percent of their income on rent and the production of affordable housing in the county has dropped 65 percent since 2017, according to a report released by the California Housing Partnership and California Coalition for Rural Housing last week.
The report states that after spending more than half their income on rent, low-income renters have little left for food, transportation, health care, and other essentials.
Renters in San Joaquin County need to earn $28.94 per hour, which is more than twice the California minimum wage, to afford the median monthly asking rent of $1,505, the report said.
Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of the California Housing Partnership, says this may be due to effects of the Great Recession and the reduction in redevelopment and affordable housing production.
“It could be helpful to think back about what happened during the Great Recession, when California had so many foreclosed homes that forced out people that had been in an ownership position into renting,” Schwartz said.
“It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 900,000 households that were pushed out of ownership statewide into renting. That’s created a huge pressure and at the same time we did not build more rental housing and of course there were a lot of foreclosed homes sitting vacant, and they were taken over by investors, so we’re still feeling the effects of the Great Recession that turned so many homeowners into renters in the Central Valley.”
At the same time, the state ended the funding of redevelopment, Schwartz said, and there were also cuts to federal housing programs.
Cuts in federal and state funding have reduced investment in affordable housing production and preservation in San Joaquin County by more than $9 million annually since 2008, a 32-percent reduction, according to the report, which also states that San Joaquin County needs more than 24,036 affordable rental homes to meet current demand.
Due to the decline in funding for affordable housing, California has lost 150,000 low-income households, Schwartz said.
Alicia Sebastian, the director of housing and community development programs for the California Coalition for Rural Housing, said the lack of affordable housing across the state has resulted in Bay Area residents migrating into San Joaquin County and pushing longtime residents out.
“We’re seeing an influx of Bay Area folks who might live there but are commuting back to the Bay,” Sebastian said. “You’re seeing an increase in pollution associated with increased traffic, wear and tear on roads because of these increased transportation issues and folks also not spending their money in the valley. So we start to wonder what these long-term impacts are from lack of affordable housing all over the state and how the valley is bearing the brunt of that, and it’s going to be the lowest-income folks in the San Joaquin Valley who have to leave.”
The lack of affordable housing has led to an increase in homelessness as well as overcrowding with people living in poor housing conditions, Sebastian said.
“A lot of our legal advocates could tell the stories of residents who are being forced to live in substandard conditions or who are living in very overcrowded conditions where you have multiple families living in a one-bedroom home,” Sebastian said.
Monica Sousa, a staff attorney at the California Rural Legal Assistance, said the CRLA regularly handles housing cases and provides eviction defense in San Joaquin County. She said the issues that they often encounter are a lack of safe and sanitary dwellings and a lack of affordable housing.
CRLA also specializes in subsidized housing, and for those with vouchers who are trying to rent there is just not enough affordable housing available.
These types of issues can lead to an increase in homelessness, Sousa said.
“In the Lodi area individuals who are having their assistance terminated or their lease terminated for various reasons are just not able to find affordable housing,” Sousa said.
Despite having a full-time job, Lodi’s Jackie Stirm said she is struggling to qualify for a rental. She said that when she recently checked out one apartment it was listed for $850, but that within a matter of weeks it had risen to $950.
Stirm makes $2,600 to $2,900 a month and has great credit, she said, but still cannot qualify for many rentals.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said.
Stirm noted that a one-bedroom apartment in Lodi that she rented for $635 two years ago is now going for $950.
“The percentage of income people are using for rent is confiscatory,” said Peter Ragsdale, director of the San Joaquin County Housing Authority. “It’s supposed to be no more than 40 percent for affordability and you’re seeing numbers at 50 to 60 percent and up.”
A lack of affordable housing and soaring rents have can also affect quality of life, education and health.
Included in the report issued by the CHP and CCRH are statewide and local recommendations to provide relief to low-income families.
On the state level, recommendations include aggressively campaigning for voters to pass Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond of 2018, and Proposition 2, the No Place Like Home homeless housing initiative, as well as expanding tax credits for low-income housing.
According to Schwartz, Proposition 1 consists of $4 billion in proposed spending, with $1 billion for new mortgages for veterans. The remaining $3 billion would be administered by the Department of Housing and the California Housing Finance Agency to support more affordable housing.
“It would be a direct way to address the situation. It will not solve it. It would not eliminate the county’s gap, but it would be a really good down payment in that direction,” Schwartz said.
Proposition 2 would provide $2 million from the Mental Health Services Act for housing for those living with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at great risk of becoming homeless, Schwartz said.
The proposition would not cost taxpayers any new money.
Local recommendations included creating a local housing trust fund utilizing identified and approved local revenue sources for affordable housing to leverage state and federal dollars, prioritizing local funds and staff time to preserve existing affordable rental properties and keeping inventory on all infill lots and publicly-owned land that can be used for affordable housing.