Bay Area Lists $117,400 As ‘Low Income’ for Affordable Housing

The “low” income level needed to qualify for some affordable housing programs in the Bay Area comes in at $117,400-a-year per household.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest figure for “low income” levels has drawn outrage from people who say they struggle to find affordable places to live despite making six-figure salaries, the Marin Independent Journal first reported. The federal agency raised the “low” annual income threshold 10 percent from last year, making it $117,400 per year for a household of four people.

RTR1XG40 The “low” income level needed to qualify for some affordable housing programs in the Bay Area comes in at $117,400-a-year per household. Reuters | Robert Galbraith

Households in the counties of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo are listed in “extremely low” income if they are making $44,000 and “very low” if they make $73,300 each year. HUD’s recently released 2018 limits have irked affordable housing nonprofits and residents who make reasonable incomes relative to the rest of the country. The median family income in the three Bay Area counties is $118,400. Several other Bay Area municipalities including Alameda and Contra Costa counties see bottom-line thresholds where $80,400 for a family of four is considered low income, according to 2017 HUD data. In Santa Clara County, $84,750 is considered the low-income threshold for a four-person family.

Earlier this year, a partially burnt and dilapidated home in San Jose's Willow Glen community was placed on the market for $800,000.

The Bay Area has led the country in housing prices while simultaneously experiencing a dramatic shortage of affordable housing. HUD income limits in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties dwarf those of other U.S. urban areas. In Los Angeles, HUD’s low-income threshold for a household of four is $77,500 and in New York City, an area long considered the most expensive city in the country, it’s low-income threshold is $83,450—nearly $34,000 less than the Bay Area.

Jesus Galindo, a Lincoln Elementary teacher who makes about $60,000 a year, told Bay Area News Group reporter Annie Sciacca said he spent about one-third of his monthly income on his home, but his parents are no longer able to reside in the Bay Area.

“For someone who loves the Bay Area, and loves Richmond, that breaks my heart,” Galindo said. “Raising a family in the Bay Area is very expensive,” said Galindo, whose partner is also a local teacher. “Even though I own my home, babysitting is expensive, the cost of food is expensive.”

Michael Santero, director of asset management for San Jose’s First Community Housing, told the Marin Independent Journal that waitlists for affordable housing are often years-long and people rarely leave the homes once they are acquired. “Very-low income” families are defined by HUD as those where income does not exceed 50 percent of the median, but high-housing cost regions like the Bay Area are adjusted high above that data to often 60 or 90 percent.

“The market will never produce homes for people at that [median] level,” said Amie Fishman, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California. “The market produces housing for those at the top. “It just demonstrates how broken and unsustainable our housing market is. More and more people are unable to afford housing.”

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