There is no firm estimate on the number of people who live in vehicles in Silicon Valley, but the problem is pervasive and apparent to anyone who sees RVs lining thoroughfares; not as visible are the cars tucked away at night in parking lots. Advocates for the homeless say it will only get worse unless more affordable housing is built. The median rent in the San Jose metro area is $3,500 a month, yet the median wage is $12 an hour in food service and $19 an hour in health care support, an amount that won’t even cover housing costs. The minimum annual salary needed to live comfortably in San Jose is $87,000, according to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates. So dilapidated RVs line the eastern edge of Stanford University in Palo Alto, and officials in neighboring Mountain View have mapped out more than a dozen areas where campers tend to cluster, some of them about a mile from Google headquarters.
The Census Bureau reports that home ownership in the United States rose to 63.9 percent in the third quarter of 2017. This continues a rising trend since the second quarter of 2016, when home ownership had dropped to 62.9. This equaled the previous low of 51 years before (1965), just a year after annual data reporting began. Home ownership peaked at 69.2 percent during the housing bubble and had been generally declining since late 2006 (Figure).
Rent control policies in San Francisco may have fueled gentrification, Stanford economists say. Stanford economists Rebecca Diamond and Tim McQuade, who published their findings last month, said occupants of rent-controlled apartments built before 1980 are 20 percent more likely to stay than other renters. It might seem that rent-control policies, therefore, act as a bastion against gentrification, by allowing and encouraging long-term residents to stay, but the researchers say that's not exactly the case. "Rent control exacerbates the housing shortage by pushing landlords to remove supply of rental housing," Diamond told SFGATE.
Issi Romem, buildzoom.com's chief economist has made a valuable contribution to the growing literature on the severe unaffordability of housing in a number of US metropolitan areas. The disparities between the severely unaffordable metropolitan areas (read San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Miami, New York, Boston, Sacramento and Riverside-San Bernardino) and the many more affordable areas in America are described in
"Paying For Dirt: Where Have Home Values Detached From Construction Costs". Romem points out that: "In the expensive U.S. coastal metros, home prices have detached from construction costs and can be almost four times as high as the cost of rebuilding existing structures." "Paying for dirt" refers to the ballooning land costs that now comprise an unprecedented part of house values, such as in the severely unaffordable metropolitan markets above. This has created an environment where affordability is impossible. In many of these metropolitan areas, a modest house commands an exorbitant price well beyond the financial capacity of most middle income households. Land has become so expensive that it doesn't matter what is built on it, whether the average house or a tent, the price will be too high. The market distortions are so great that Romem is able to show that, for example, the average house value in Columbus, Ohio, a delightful metropolitan area, is less than the average land value per lot in Portland (Oregon).
It’s a problem that isn’t going away: the so-called “affordable” housing we’re building in many cities—by which we mean publicly subsidized housing that’s dedicated to low- and moderate-income households—is so expensive to build that we’ll never be able to build enough of it to make a dent in the housing affordability problem
. . . . More broadly, the case has been made that much publicly subsidized affordable housing costs much more to build than market rate housing. Private developers are able to build new multi-family housing at far lower costs. One local builder has constructed new one-bedroom apartments in Portland at cost of less than $100,000 a unit, albeit with fewer amenities and in less central locations than most publicly supported projects. In Portland, local private developer Rob Justus has proposed to build 300 apartments and sell them to the city for $100,000 each on a turn-key basis to be operated as affordable housing. Another possible cost savings measure: off-site construction. The University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center has a report that explores the possibility for pre-fabricated, off-site construction to reduce construction costs.