One of the most interesting pieces to come out of the materials posted in advance of the big meeting on rising rents is the rent study, it’s the first Exhibit. While some folks are concerned with the limited focus at the conclusion of the study of ways to preserve or increase the affordable housing supply, for me, it’s not that big of a deal given the healthy skepticism that exists on the City Council with regard to anything that is consultant produced. And, besides, we already know of what can be done, it’s simply a matter of whether this City Council is bold enough to move forward with policies that currently exist to protect and increase the supply of affordable housing in Alameda. We don’t have a shortage of ideas and practices that work in other cities, what we have is an issue of leadership. Whether this City Council has the will and the ability to move forward these issues.
So let me pull out some of the more relevant facts that should inform this discussion about rising rents and should affect political positions on these issues.
Approximately 16,793 units, or more than 53% of Alameda’s total housing stock, are rental units.
Alameda has a higher percentage of renters households that the Bay Area in general and Alameda County.
Homeowners median income vs renter median income:
The City of Alameda’s median annual renter household income, at just under $55,000 in 2013, was slightly less than half of the median for owner households, at almost $115,000. Households earning $55,000 can afford to pay approximately $1,370 per month in rent, including utilities.
And percentage of change in those incomes over a 13 year period:
How renter income is distributed:
Rental housing type:
Who owns Alameda rentals;
But this, this is probably the most important slide of them all. The vacancy rate:
In 2013, Alameda showed an extremely low 1.4% vacancy rate, compared to a County rate of 3.8% and a Bay Area rate of 3.6%. Analysts consider 5.0% a healthy vacancy rate that provides adequate availability of units for renters while maintaining a strong market for property owners [emphasis added]
And how little supply Alameda has added to the multifamily housing market:
Units that could be subject to rent stabilization:
And, despite Tony Daysog’s attention to the matter, AirBnB has not contributed to the housing shortage in Alameda:
data provided by Airbnb indicate that there are 100 active hosts in Alameda, representing approximately 0.3% of the City’s housing supply. This figure includes hosts renting rooms in their primary residence, hosts that rent their homes while on vacation, and hosts with a second home in Alameda for their personal use that they also rent to earn extra income
Here are the scary figures, how many people pay more than 30% and 50% of their median income on housing:
During the 2008-2012 period, 48% of Alameda’s renter households were considered low income. Of these, 5,125 had extremely low or very low incomes, and most of these households (4,140 households) could not afford their rent (paid more than 30% of income to rent) in 2012. The most acute affordability need was faced by the 2,975 very low-income renter households who paid more than half of their income to rent. These households are typically considered at risk of homelessness. Due to rising rents and lagging incomes, it is likely that more Alameda renter households face this severe cost burden today.
So while some folks want to focus on the fact that a very small, self-reported sample of renters have indicated that they have not received a rent increase (landlords in the audience, have YOU raised your tenants’ rents annually?) the fact that so many residents, particularly folks that are extremely low income and very low income are paying more than 30% and more than 50% of their income to their housing means that something is wrong. Will the magic market do anything for these families once they become homeless because they are simply unable to bear another rent increase? Or will the solution just be for them to drive till they qualify as has been the larger Bay Area policy for decades. Somehow we are all supposed to feel empathy and compassion for the poor “housing providers” that toil and struggle turn a profit on an appreciating asset because they may or may not have had some lean years, but coldly proclaim that struggling renters are simply victims of blind market forces.