Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 20, 2019

Things they do look awful cold

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

There is a great piece in the Atlantic about housing policy, particularly housing policy in what is supposed to be progressive enclaves in the United States.  FYI I’m Generation X so we’re the missing middle folks that don’t get the attention that the boomers and the millennials receive in these side vs side discussions.

It’s largely an extended discussion on how the the haves (boomers) have set up the political environment in such a way that it precludes their children (millennials) from being able to get a piece of the American dream of homeowning without significant family assistance or a huge windfall from stock.

From the piece:

Places where real estate is cheap don’t have many good jobs. Places with lots of jobs, primarily coastal cities, have seen their real-estate markets go absolutely haywire.

Nationally, the gap between income and home value has been rising. Using Unison’s methodology, it took nine years to save up a down payment in 1975. Now it takes 14.

But the aggregate numbers make the decrease in access to the real-estate market seem gradual, albeit troubling, and underplay the spikiness of the country. In Los Angeles, it would take 43 years to save up for a down payment. In San Francisco, 40. In San Jose and San Diego, 31. In Seattle and Portland, 27 and 23, respectively. In the east, New York and Miami topped the list, requiring 36 years to save up that down payment.


The TL:dr; it’s not the occasional avocado toast purchase that is making it difficult for this generation to purchase homes.


One part of the problem is easy to identify: housing scarcity. The Bay Area has become the poster child for this factor. More than half a million jobs were created from 2010 to 2017, but only 76,000 housing units were built. You don’t have to be a market fundamentalist to see how that could cause problems. And indeed, the median single-family-home price is more than $1.6 million in San Francisco, and close to $1 million for the whole nine-county Bay Area. (The median price for all types of housing units in the whole region was $830,000.)

The simplest way to read these numbers is that the real-estate market in job-rich cities like San Francisco does not work for the vast majority of young people. That’s why so many housing debates in big coastal cities feel like generational warfare. Policies—such as changes in restrictive zoning or building lots of new multifamily units—that could lower home prices are promoted heavily by younger people, who would like to participate in a less insane real-estate market. At the same time, many homeowners, and the city officials they elect, see propping up real-estate values as what the government does.

I’ll add that this is also what government entities believe for rents as well, that a landlord is deserving of a fair return on investment and that appears to be the key deciding factor in whether our own RRAC levies a rent increase.

It’s amazing that a group of people (boomers) who wanted to give everything to their kids when they were kids (millennials) now don’t seem to care at all about the financial security of those kids.



  1. Perhaps boomers too are on the edge..

    Comment by musyoka2004 — June 20, 2019 @ 6:04 am

  2. This article nails the root cause of our housing crisis: a system in which owning a house is central to being “successful” and to financing retirement. We’d be better off if we regarded a house simply as a place to live and provided it as an essential service like water, electricity and the telephone.

    Comment by William Smith — June 20, 2019 @ 6:54 am

  3. The American economy has never been better. Here’s the formula. You need need two median incomes, to pay off the college debt and to get married. What’s missing is sacrificing and saving for a better future, which may include not living in SF until you can afford it. However, studies show few people are saving. And by the way, government props up property values because they derive income from property taxes.

    Here’s an economic idea. Don’t invite so many people to California by offering free everything. Price is a function of demand.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — June 20, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    • Please enlighten us: what us free in California that’s not free elsewhere?

      Comment by dave — June 20, 2019 @ 8:10 am

    • Didn’t know Calif was inviting anybody in except illegals, the others are drawn in for various reasons.

      Comment by Jack — June 20, 2019 @ 8:34 am

  4. Everyone who drags millennials and gen z should have to show their tax returns. People know to save, but it’s a little challenging because the rent is too damn high.

    Comment by Gaylon — June 20, 2019 @ 9:01 am

  5. If you were to poll Baby Boomers, I would guessimate that over 80% of them received help in making a down payment when they bought their first home. Today is no different. If you want to buy in the Bay Area though you better be able one of the lucky few who is employed in tech sector making over $100K a year and have Baby Boomer parents who can lend a helping hand.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — June 20, 2019 @ 9:48 am

  6. Aren’t millenials children of gen-xers not boomers? Supposedly the last boomers were born in 1964 and the first millenials born in 1981, which implies millenials mostly are the children of those born after ’64? Maybe the premise is wrong here?

    Comment by just curious — June 20, 2019 @ 10:12 am

    • If you were born in 1964 and had a child at 24 in 1988, your child would be a millennial. If you’re late Gen X born in 1980 and have a child at 24 in 2004 your child is not a millennial.

      Comment by Lauren Do — June 20, 2019 @ 10:24 am

  7. It’s called the ‘ME’ generation for a reason….attributed to writer Tom Wolfe and Christopher Lasch in the ’70’s who commented on the rise of a culture of narcissism associated with this cohort…. similarly, as German physicist Max Planck once said, ‘science’ advances one funeral at a time….just in case you’re wondering how it will all work out….. on this (housing) or most any other major issue (healthcare, retirement, social security, childcare, educational costs, etc.), where generations (writ large) have differing economic or social interests/needs/outlooks.

    Comment by Randy Rentschler — June 20, 2019 @ 11:39 am

    • Still wondering how it will all (writ large) all work out.

      Comment by Jack — June 20, 2019 @ 6:32 pm

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