SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) – Remember when a six-figure salary meant you had a really good job? In three Bay Area counties, San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin, if you make below $117,400, you’re officially poor.
“That kind of shocks you. How is that possibly poverty by anybody’s measure? But it actually is for a family of four in our area,” said Ken Cole, Director of the San Mateo County Department of Housing.
According to the latest survey by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the median income in those three counties tops the entire country, and is so high that households making $117,000 would actually qualify to live in low-income housing projects.
Cole said he’s a bit shocked that number has risen 10 percent from just last year.
“Not surprised at all to see a five percent increase. A 10 percent increase did get my attention,” Cole told KPIX 5.
He thinks that jump is because most of the poorer people have already been forced out.
In a town like Belmont, the mad scramble to find housing has driven prices to such levels that mostly high-wage earners remain.
Rebecca Yazdani’s daughter just landed a well-paying job, but is only able to afford a one-bedroom apartment and will need to find a roommate soon.
“People working at Starbucks, where do they live? You know, how are they able to do it?” Yazdani said.
The answer is they can’t, and Cole says evidence shows service employees are leaving the area. Cole said the only real answer is to build more housing.
But that’s not happening fast enough as residents oppose any project that may increase traffic or decrease open space.
“You’re going to have to trade off higher-cost housing for it in this area. And you’re gonna have to put up with people sleeping on the sidewalk,” Cole said.
Those who want to preserve their community will have to see something change, or there won’t be anyone left to work in the restaurant or the bank or the dry cleaners.
The state is pressuring local governments to impose “inclusion rules” that would require some units in all new development be affordable.