We have the beach, the Boardwalk, breathtaking redwood forests and our own University. Such luxuries seldom come without a price, and we pay for it In housing. The Santa Cruz housing market Is one of the least affordable In the nation. And since the rent increased by a whopping 30% last year, it’s not surprising to find that low income workers are packing their bags because they can’t pay their rent. So what about the middle class? They should be getting by Just fine. That’s what middle class is, isn’t it?
As it turns out, median income households lack the income necessary for owning a house, condo, or even a mobile home. People are evicted from their home everyday. What we fail to realize is that these people are our firefighters, teachers, construction workers, and bus drivers. Even police officers are becoming a rare breed in this town because they move away once they learn they cannot afford to live here. Businesses and services are now undergoing difficulty in hiring people who would usually hold these Jobs; horrifying, because these positions are very Important to the community.
Lower-income, working Americans and those on fixed incomes are crowding into even smaller spaces than ever before. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s America’s Growing Wage-Rent Disparity, a person earning minimum wage ($6. 75) must slave away at their Job for at least 145 hours a week to come home to a poorly maintained, two-bedroom apartment. What I don’t understand is why such a wealthy, beautiful, presumably liberal town like Santa Cruz must insist on charging their inhabitants ridiculous prices for less than substantial homes.
My friend, Celli, moved here over a year ago and has already been evicted from one accidence. She now lives on Ocean Street along with her high-school friend, Dan. The ‘OFF notorious for its traffic, drug users, and violence. There is evidence that Kelly’s “room” was initially intended by the carpenters to serve as the living room. This is where she puts her mattress on the floor. The carpet is worn out, the toilet is always overflowing, the neighbors are noisy, and there isn’t even room in her kitchen for a table made by Playschool.
Does this sound like a place worth spending $900 a month on? Luckily, Dan and her split the cost, but with Celli making minimum wage, that’s almost her entire paycheck. Spending your whole paycheck on housing is ridiculous while other expenses such as food, utilities, taxes, etceteras still need to be attended to. Increasing numbers of people, like Celli, are left with no choice but to move out of town. While some of them find more affordable housing elsewhere, good majorities become members of our ever-growing homeless community.
Contrary to popular belief, the homeless people in Santa Cruz don’t come from “a land far, far away. ” According to the Community Assessment Project report, about 4,500 of the people living in Santa Cruz today were the homeless people of our town he previous year. 26% of them grew up here and nearly two-thirds of them said that their last permanent housing was located in Santa Cruz County. Contrary to what you would believe if you took a stroll down Pacific Avenue, not all homeless are “bums”.
One-third of them actually works; they Just don’t have a roof over their head. Working 40 hours a week should provide any American with enough money to feed their families and pay the mortgage, but it doesn’t in Santa Cruz. That’s because in Santa Cruz, you’re not only paying for a house, you’re paying for the location too. The citizens of Santa Cruz have a general understanding that when they are paying for their house they are paying for the beach, too. Last time I checked, the County of Santa Cruz didn’t create the beach.
They didn’t manufacture the sand themselves and add a dash of seawater and “say that it was good”. What right do they have to charge us money for what naturally occurs? Being thankful for our location isn’t enough because we conform and pay the county for a natural wonder that they claim responsibility for. We need to stop blindly accepting that expensive housing goes long with living in such a fine location. The beach is a mere scapegoat; the real reason for the housing crisis is thanks to our stingy county supervisor’s.
On Monday, July 29, 2002, the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury announced that the blame for the scandalous housing prices could be placed entirely on our intelligent county supervisors. Their main goal was to keep Santa Cruz a small town, which sounds considerate to our community but with more and more people wanting to live here, you can’t Just ignore them and let them live in Hollister. You have to build more affordable houses. Although it is noble for the supervisors to try to protect our local environments, it isn’t very wise to neglect the need for construction if the public demands it.
Without the production of more houses, citizens of Santa Cruz County will continue to experience a dramatic increase in rent. According to State Law, “the state requires that all local governments write a strategy of units that would have to be built to accommodate projected growth, and explain how the city would enable them to be built. ” Santa Cruz tried to get around this by building less units compared to estimated population because they figured following he rules would cost them too much money and encourage more people to come to this town.
As a result, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development denied certification to Santa Cruz County’s layout for the ass’s. This meant millions of dollars worth of grants for housing to the county and it also meant that hundreds of citizens would still be without a home. In addition, the housing prices went up to compensate their losses. Lovely town isn’t it? The housing crisis in Santa Cruz has only become worse over the past few years. Now is the time to take action. Although little can be done to dramatically lower the prices, it’s always possible to organize, lobby, and petition.
It’s time to make city counsel aware of what they are depriving themselves of by driving the hard laborers out of their homes and their towns. As we know, this could take years and years to come into affect and it will probably happen once our local government realizes Just how much money they’ve been losing while trying to cut corners. In the meantime, the best thing we can do is help those who have already hit rock bottom. If you still have your house, or if you still live comfortably in Santa Cruz, then
I urge you to help out at a homeless shelter once in a while. If you’re like my friend, Celli, and you really can’t afford to live here anymore I suggest leaving town. That’s what the county supervisors want us to do anyway. At least then you won’t be taking up their precious space, and wasting your money on a less than satisfactory pigeonhole in Santa Cruz. Maybe if we all move out of town they’ll wise up and lower the prices on housing. Ah, beautiful Santa Cruz. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but I’m going to have to since it’s almost impossible to afford.