Affordable housing tops list of concerns in Marin resident survey
Author: Richard Halstead
PUBLICATION: Marin IJ
Marin County’s lack of affordable housing topped the list of concerns in a new survey of county residents.
Marin County supervisors reviewed results at their meeting Tuesday. National Research Center Inc., the firm the county paid $38,610 to conduct the survey, randomly sampled 3,200 residents, both in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county. Of that group, 695 responded, about 22 percent.
The survey consisted of 68 categories of questions with allowable multiple choice responses provided in each case. There was only one open-ended question in the survey to which respondents had to write their answer: What do you think is the single biggest priority Marin County government should focus on in the next two years?
The top response, submitted by 27 percent of respondents, was affordable housing. Close behind were traffic improvements at 25 percent and climate change/disaster preparedness at 22 percent.
“My feeling is we really do need to focus on that going forward,” said Supervisor Judy Arnold, regarding affordable housing.
Arnold noted that in previous resident surveys residents typically ranked traffic congestion as the county’s biggest challenge, except during recessionary periods when the economy eclipsed concern over traffic.
Arnold speculated that the launch of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) service may have eased concerns about traffic somewhat. She said getting the SMART train running was a difficult task that took years of work, and she said that the Board of Supervisors needs to put the “same amount of bravery and thought” into addressing the housing issue.
Affordable housing also ranked high when those surveyed were presented with five issues facing the county and asked to rate their importance. Forty-eight percent of respondents ranked preserving affordable housing as essential. Addressing climate change and disaster preparedness received virtually the same ranking on that question, while 56 percent of respondents said investing in county roads and other infrastructure is essential. The question did not explicitly ask respondents which of the five issues they consider paramount.
Sixty-six percent of respondents reported having an annual household income of $100,000 or more; 24 percent reported an annual household income of $250,000 or more. Sixty-percent of respondents said they are working full time, 48 percent outside of Marin County, and 24 percent said they are fully retired.
Eighty-seven percent of those who completed the survey listed their race as white. Fourteen percent said they were Spanish, Hispanic or Latino. Only 1 percent said they were African-American.
After surveys were mailed to randomly selected households in November 2018, Marin County also made available a web-based survey to residents. This “opt-in” survey was made available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and an outreach effort was mounted through the county’s community partners. Assistant County Administrator Daniel Eilerman said a total of 3,068 opt-in surveys were received, and the results closely match those of the random sample.
Concern over housing affordability appeared to vary depending on income. One hundred percent of respondents with an annual income of $250,000 or more said they were not under housing cost stress while 65 percent of those with an annual income between $100,000 and $250,000 said they were unstressed. Only 22 percent of respondents earning less than $100,000 annually said they were not experiencing housing cost stress.
Sixty-five percent of white respondents said they are not under housing cost stress while only 41 percent of respondents who are Hispanic or a race other than white said they are not stressed by housing costs.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their monthly housing costs amount to $4,000 or more. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they own their own home while 33 percent said they rent.
Asked to rate the quality of service provided by Marin County, state government and the federal government, 22 percent of respondents rated Marin County’s services as excellent. Only 4 percent rated state government services as excellent and 3 percent rated federal government services as excellent.
Supervisor Damon Connolly said while the survey provided useful new information, “It also reinforced that we’re focused on the right issues.”
Both Connolly and Supervisor Kate Sears said they were impressed by the fact that 97 percent of respondents said they talk with a neighbor more than once a month and 88 percent said they do a favor for a neighbor more than once a month.
Connolly said the county needs to factor that sense of community into its wildfire preparedness efforts.
Marin County conducted similar resident surveys in 2005, 2007 and 2009 by phone. The latest survey was done primarily by mail due to increased difficulty reaching people by phone. Only 14 percent of respondents to the new survey said they consider a landline their primary telephone number
Read the full article, here: https://www.marinij.com/2019/03/12/affordable-housing-tops-list-of-concerns-in-marin-resident-survey/