Frustration over the Bay Area’s housing crisis intensified over the past year as the number of voters in the 2018 Bay Area Council Poll who say it’s gotten much harder to find a place to live spiked. The poll found 53 percent saying it’s gotten much harder to find housing compared to 36 percent last year, while the overall number of voters who say it’s gotten much harder or somewhat harder jumped from 64 percent to 76 percent.
That certainly explains why Bay Area voters most frequently mentioned the region’s housing shortage and affordability crisis as its biggest problem and why, along with the high cost of living and epic traffic congestion, 46 percent say they are likely to leave in the next few years for presumably less expensive cities outside the region and outside the state, including Texas, Oregon and Nevada.
“Forcing people to leave the Bay Area is not the solution to our housing crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We have one of the world’s most envied economies and near full employment, but that won’t last unless we provide the housing our region so badly needs. Every housing unit we fail to build in the Bay Area is a brick in a big wall around the Bay Area.”
Voters share similar concerns, with 75 percent saying the housing shortage threatens to undermine a Bay Area economy that has led the nation in creating jobs. Overall support for building more housing is strong.
Almost 30 percent—up slightly from 2017—of Bay Area homeowners said they would consider adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU)—aka granny or in-law unit. Legislation authored by Sen. Bob Wieckowski that the Bay Area Council sponsored two years ago to ease local restrictions on ADUs has spurred a statewide surge in applications and the Council is sponsoring another Wieckowski bill this year (SB 831) that would remove even more barriers. Translating homeowners’ intentions into reality would create an estimated 450,000 units of new housing in a region with an estimated 1.5 million detached, single family homes.
Voters also expressed overwhelming 73 percent support for policies that make building more housing near transit and commercial areas easier. That support, however, didn’t translate into passage of legislation (SB 827) authored this year by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener and supported by the Bay Area Council that would have made it easier to do exactly that. The bill drew strong resistance from local government and some environmental and social equity groups, but is expected to return next year.
Support for building housing in and around existing residential neighborhoods is also strong, but has largely stagnated in recent years. The poll found that 59 percent of voters support more housing near them, but the figure dipped slightly from 62 percent in 2017 and remains largely unchanged from 2014.
Newer residents are more supportive of housing than those who have lived it the Bay Area the longest. Among residents who have lived in the region 10 years or less, the poll found that 73 percent say they’d like to see more housing while 52 percent of those who have lived in the Bay Area for 20 years or more say they would support more housing in their neighborhood.
For those who don’t flee, the housing shortage comes with financial impacts. While a little over half of voters say they are spending up to 35 percent of their income to keep a roof over their head, one third are spending 40 percent and more. Renters are among the hardest hit financially by the region’s stratospheric housing costs, with 40 percent spending 40 percent or more of their income on housing compared with 26 percent of homeowners.
The 2018 Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted online by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research from March 20 through April 3, surveyed 1,000 registered voters from around the nine-county Bay Area about a range of issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, drought, education and workforce.