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New Report Finds Marin is the Most Unaffordable County in the Nation for Renters

by Tina DuongIndy Bay
June 20th, 2011

Marin County tops the list of the nation’s least affordable rental markets with over 60 percent of its renters unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to Out of Reach, a nationwide comparison of how much money a household must earn to afford to rent a modest home. The data was compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and published locally by Live Local Marin—a special initiative to help more people live near where they work in Marin, led by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and Greenbelt Alliance. The report finds that a Marin worker would need to earn $35.25 hourly or over $73,000 annually to afford the $1,833 rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment. This is nearly twice the national average and 126 percent of the typical Marin renter household income of $58,000.

“This means current Marin renters and workers are forced to make bad choices,” said Dianne Spaulding, Executive Director of NPH. “They either are paying more than the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing costs, leaving little or nothing in their paychecks for healthcare, education or savings; or they are driving in to work from far outside the county, worsening Marin’s already high rate of in-commuter traffic. This report provides new evidence that we need more safe, affordable rental choices in Marin.”

Nationwide, the number of renters paying over 30 percent of their income for housing reached 18.5 million in 2009, representing 52 percent of all U.S. renters. A decade ago, only 40 percent of renters were in this predicament. This trend is more extreme for Marin’s 36,000 renter households. For example, a single-income household with a Marin pre-school teacher earning $37,000 a year, would need to hold two jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment. For a minimum wage worker, such as food servers, affordable housing is even farther out of reach. They would need to have three jobs to afford even a studio apartment.

In addition, competition for rental housing is at its peak as the foreclosure crisis forced former homeowners into renters. Spaulding continued, “This increased demand drives up rents since the current supply of affordable rental homes has remained static. That means Marin’s longtime residents and its essential workers, such as paramedics, kindergarten teachers and childcare workers, are being squeezed out even farther.”

Jeremy Madsen, Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance, stated, “The choices low income earners are forced to make not only add stress to their lives but also harm the environment. The solution is to provide a range of housing choices near jobs, something that each city and town can make plans for in their blueprint for future growth. Living locally is a boon for the economy, too: workers who once drove their dollars home to another county will now spend in Marin. It’s a win-win.”

“I am proof it works,” said Trisha Follins, a resident of Drake’s Way, an award-winning affordable townhome community in Larkspur where 2-bedrooms rent for an average of $825. She continued, “This apartment means I can live close to my job as a preschool teacher in Sausalito. And it means I can stay in Marin where I raised my two oldest kids and want to raise my teenage son. I love how close it is to buses and shops, and how safe it is. Where we lived before wasn’t good for my son. But now he’s doing great in school. I feel lucky. I wish all moms could have the same choice.”

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