Monday, October 16, 2006

So where ARE we Supposed to Live, Then?

The Census Bureau, in addition to counting where people live, also counts where they work. City-by-city and county-by-county results are available from their website here. You can download it in MS Excel or ASCII format. It's pretty dry stuff--just a big table of numbers--but it helps answer very un-academic questions you might be asking, like "why am I stuck driving an hour to get to work every day?", or "why am I paying so much for rent on this dump?". Last August, I wrote a bit of a rant on this subject, and accused California cities of being all too eager to attract business, but equally eager to avoid providing housing for the people who work in them. Now I've got statistics to prove it!

First, here's a useful figures on what a good ratio of employment to housing should be. Nationwide, the Census counted 281,421,906 residents, of whom 128,168,928 were enployed; that's 2.19 residents per employee. In California, the figures were 33,871,648 residents, 14,506,499 emploeyees, or 2.33 residents per employee.

So that means that cities should, on average, provide room for 2.33 residents per person they create space for the employment of. How do local cities measure up? I looked at a sample of cities starting with San Francisco, and working down the Hwy 101/CalTrain corridor. I took population and employment figures from the Census spreadsheets, figured a population need based on the employment figures times 2.33, and a housing surplus/deficit by subtracting the actual population:

CityPopulationJobsHousing
Need
Housing
Surplus/
Deficit
San Francisco776,733587,3001,368,409-591,676
Daly City103,62115,00634,96468,657
Colma1,1913,2667,610-6,419
South SF60,55241,08495,726-35,174
San Bruno40,16515,56636,2693,896
Millbrae20,7186,40214,9175,801
Burlingame28,15825,65759,781-31,623
San Mateo92,48246,512108,373-15,891
Belmont25,1237,04316,4108,713
San Carlos27,71817,85741,607-13,889
Redwood City75,40252,887123,227-47,825
Menlo Park30,78532,93076,727-45,942
Palo Alto58,59878,657183,271-124,673
East PA29,5062,7966,51522,991
Mountain View70,70859,293138,153-67,445
Los Altos27,69310,68424,8942,799
Sunnyvale131,76089,899209,465-77,705
Santa Clara102,361119,124277,559-175,198
San Jose894,943377,915880,54214,401
Campbell38,13823,14653,930-15,792
Milpitas62,69848,798113,699-51,001
Morgan Hill33,55612,86629,9783,578
Gilroy41,46415,50736,1315,333
Hollister34,4139,36421,81812,595

It's not surprising that San Francisco has a housing deficit, since its downtown has been developing as a commute destination from surrounding cities for over a hundred years now. But, whereas in times past, suburban "bedroom" communities provided enough of a "housing surplus" to offset the "housing deficit" of core cities, it's clear the peninsula and valley cities don't come close, and some--especially quintissential "Silicon Valley" cities like Palo Alto and Santa Clara, have developed into major commute targets themselves, while adding very little in the way of new housing. The result is a huge, region-wide, deficit of housing.

How big is the problem? Let's take a look at figures for the five counties that make up the urban core of the Bay Area:

CountyPopulationJobsHousing
Need
Housing
Surplus/
Deficit
Alameda1,443,741683,9571,593,620-149,879
Contra Costa948,816338,408788,491160,325
Marin247,289122,643285,758-38,469
San Francisco776,733587,3001,368,409-591,676
San Mateo707,161353,376823,366-116,205
Santa Clara1,682,585946,7562,205,941-523,356
Total5,806,3253,032,4407,065,585-1,259,260

So the Bay Area basically is short of housing to the point of needing to make room for about a million and a quarter more people. The average household in California (according to the Census Bereau again) is 2.93 people, so that works out to about a half million housing units.

If you're wondering where you can move to get away from this mess here's some figures for counties in the "greater Bay Area":

CountyPopulationJobsHousing
Need
Housing
Surplus/
Deficit
San Benito53,23415,46036,02217,212
San Joaquin563,598195,709456,002107,596
Santa Cruz255,602107,407250,2585,344
Solano394,542123,386287,489107,053
Stanislaus446,997153,956358,71788,280
Napa124,27959,875139,509-15,230
Yolo168,66086,301201,081-32,421

These figures reflect decades of bad planning and willful blindness to a growing problem. The result for most of us is choice between exhorbitant housing costs and nightmare commutes, or some "compromise" between them. As I wrote in the manifest that I opened this blog with, a solution to this problem will require leadership beyond the parochial interests of individual cities. Our state government should incent cities to provide housing proportionate to their commercial space--by whatever carrots or sticks will get the job done.

2 comments:

blider said...

Where does the 3.3 come from?

295bus said...

Whoops, that was just a typo, which I've now fixed. And I verified that 2.33 was the factor that I actually used in my spreadsheet.

Thanks!