PRICED OUT: Housing Affordability in Marin

Updated: Sep 29, 2018

Dylan Panahy | NextGen Marin

The term “housing crisis” has been used quite a bit in reference to the astronomical costs of living in the Bay Area. But is calling it a crisis truly accurate or is it an exaggeration?

The Bay Area has the questionable honor of being #1 in the country for out-migration, or people moving out of the region due to unaffordability. According to a study of this phenomenon by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, even the notoriously high-paid professionals in the tech industry are choosing to move to more affordable tech-hotspots such as Sacramento, Austin, and Portland. According to a 2018 study from SFGate, starting software engineers at top San Francisco tech companies earn an average starting salary of $91,738 annually. And despite this, they’re STILL moving away. The fact that some of the highest paid individuals in the entire United States are fleeing the Bay en masse should cause alarm for anyone planning to live here long-term.

Let's explore the data.

With each passing year, housing affordability decreases in the Bay Area. For 58 consecutive months, the median price paid for a Bay Area home has risen. In a 2017 study by EMC Research, citizen samples from all nine Bay Area counties including Marin listed cost of living and housing availability as the two most important issues facing the Bay Area. Over 70% of those polled said they personally knew someone who had left the Bay due to high housing costs in the last 2 years alone. In the North Bay alone, 35% of all respondents reported that they are seriously considering leaving Marin in the near future due to housing costs. 81% said that they did not see themselves purchasing a house in the next 5 years. 82% stated that they were concerned that young people could not afford housing in the Bay Area.

Let’s return to Marin.

The negative effects of this rampant unaffordability is most apparent in Marin, where entire age groups are largely absent from the county. This county is the oldest in terms of age in the Bay Area, with the average median age in 2018 being 46.6, up from 44.5 in 2011. Despite the neighboring city of San Francisco being the second most densely populated city in the entire United States, Marin is only the 26th most densely populated county in California alone. As of 2016, the number of youth between the ages of 5 and 17 was about 15.5%. Compare this with the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds and problem begins to become clearer. Only 8.3% of Marin county’s population were between the ages of 25 and 34. This drastic drop demonstrates that despite Marin having a large youth population, the youth of our county simply cannot afford to continue living in the place that they grew up in once they enter the workforce. A quick comparison with the county containing emerging rival tech-hub Portland is revealing: in Multnomah Country, 19.9% of the population is within the 25 and 34 age group, with a similarly sized youth population of 13.5%. In terms of retaining the next generation, Marin simply cannot compete.

Why is this?

From 2010 to 2017, Marin’s housing supply increased by only .7% despite a total job growth of 12.2% in the same amount of time. Of those .7% of housing units added, only 10 are considered affordable. On top of this, the cost of buying a house is continuously increasing, with Marin’s median property value increasing from $906,500 to $1.44 million from 2015 to 2017, a shocking 26.2% increase! Fewer and fewer homes being built means that buyers end up bidding up the value of homes due to the increased competition, pricing out potential buyers that make less than $250,000 a year. Median income needed to buy a house in Marin is a shocking $247,130 according to Realty Group. Even the average one-bedroom apartment in Marin county requires an annual salary of $69,000

So you tell me. Is needing a salary of almost $250,000 just to buy a house in Marin a crisis? Just ask any member of Marin’s under 34 population that harbor the increasingly unrealistic dream of living in this county outside of their parent’s house.


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