|May 01, 2014, 05:00 AM By Angela Swartz Daily Journal|
Apartment rates in San Mateo County continue to rise, as the county tied with Marin and San Francisco counties for the top three most expensive out of 3,144 other counties in the United States to live in, with renters needing to make $29.83 per hour to afford one-bedroom housing, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The average rent for an apartment in the first quarter of 2014 was $2,360. The average one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment was $2,136. The average occupancy rate was 93.9 percent, up 0.3 percent from the same time last year, according to RealFacts, a group that compiles apartment data. Minimum wage in San Mateo County is $8 per hour.
Development is growing along the Peninsula, said Nick Grotjahn, sales and client services representative for RealFacts.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth,” Grotjahn said. “People are starting to build properties in San Mateo because rents are out of reach in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Whenever builders see an opportunity where there’s quite a bit of demand, the outlying areas are going to grow as well.”
Meanwhile, Sally Navarro, a rental, sales and property management Realtor for AVR Realty in Burlingame, said the market has been crazy and ever changing in the last eight months. Navarro helps rent out spaces from Daly City to Menlo Park.
“They’ve (rents) just been going up and up and up just like during the dot-com boom,” she said. “People are willing to pay the prices because there’s such limited inventory. … In any given week, we’ll run out of one-bedrooms or don’t have any studios available. It really sort of cycles.”
She notes houses get snatched up pretty quickly. Clients are having to make some concessions to find a place to live too. She leased a house in Burlingame last year with no heat.
“There’s something out there for everything,” she said. “Whether there’s no heat or it’s little tiny one-bedrooms that people will rent.”
Those like Mark Moulton, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, say the discussion of housing in the county needs to be reframed and seen as an opportunity. His group works to accelerate the production of new homes in the county at all affordability levels to create opportunities and a viable quality of life.
“Let’s ask, ‘Who needs housing?’ he wrote in an email. “’Why do they need it?’ ‘Why does housing at the level they can afford to pay, not now exist in San Mateo County?’ Take a look at the downtown specific plan in Redwood City. Take a look at the Grand Boulevard Initiative. Ask, ‘Is San Mateo County together as 21 jurisdictions a place that can discuss the opportunity to grow our rate of housing production to meet our jobs growth?’”
There needs to be a forum to discuss growing housing production, Moulton said.
In the context of the recent local housing element updates, a coalition of groups, including the Housing Council, Greenbelt Alliance and Sustainable San Mateo County, sent letters to each of the county’s city councilmembers, along with a list of policies that may help the situation.
“We believe that the implications of these high housing costs for our community are serious and profound,” the letter dated March 27 stated. “They are regularly cited as one of the key constraints to economic development in San Mateo County.”
More development in priority areas and other transit-served locations carry with it the risk of displacement of existing low-income populations, the groups wrote. Potential policies recommended to the councils by the groups included committing to development without displacement; considering displacement risks early in the development process; focusing on both direct displacement and indirect displacement; stabilizing existing lower income residents/housing; considering rent stabilization, just cause eviction ordinances, one-for-one replacement of any housing removed from the supply and condominium conversion controls; and making affordable housing a key component of development strategy from the beginning.
Meanwhile, the county’s homeless rate has risen 12 percent since 2011, according to a report from the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, compiled in January 2013. There are 2,281 homeless people in the county as of January, with 1,299 unsheltered homeless people and 982 sheltered homeless people, according to the report. The next homelessness count will be conducted in January 2015.
The number of people seeking shelter space doesn’t seem to have changed much since the last count, said Wendy Goldberg, homeless and shelter care manager at the Human Services Agency. One thing that has changed is that the Project WeHOPE shelter in East Palo Alto changed from being a seasonal shelter from Nov. 15 through April 15 to year round through county funding, making 50 extra beds available.
“There is an increase in the number of beds available in county year round, which is great,” she said. “There still are people waiting to get into the shelters who are staying with friends or staying in a motel.”
There are usually about 40-60 people per night who come and request shelter space and aren’t able to get immediate shelter, she said.