Kern and Stanislaus counties each have multiple hurdles to overcome if the needs of low-income renters are to be met, according to a recent report from the California Housing Partnership.
“The state has been disinvested for the past five years,” Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership, said. “They need to give us the tools to solve these problems.”
Issues result from a reduction of funding from federal and state agencies since 2008 to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies statewide in 2012. Kern County has lost 69 percent of funding for housing from those sources during that time, totaling more than $33 million. Stanislaus County lost nearly $19 million in funding, or 74 percent.
Renters must earn more than double the state's $9 minimum wage in order to afford average-priced rental housing in both counties. The majority of low-income renters in the two counties must spend more than half of their income on rent.
Since the turn of the century, Kern has seen an increase of 23 percent in rental costs; Stanislaus saw a 15 percent increase.
Median renter household income increased by 2 percent in Kern County but dropped 12 percent in Stanislaus.
Kern County needs nearly 30,000 additional affordable rental homes in order to meet the needs of its very low-income and extremely low-income renters, according to the study. Stanislaus County needs a little more than 21,000 additional homes.
Overcrowding is also a problem for both counties, with Kern's rate 134 percent higher than the national average and Stanislaus' 78 percent higher, which contributes “significantly to poor health and academic achievement among low-income children,” according to the study.
Schwartz said there are two solutions to the problem.
“One is you get people more income; if you double the minimum wage people will be able to afford their housing,” he explained. “But we know that isn't going to happen overnight.”
The second solution is to build more affordable housing.
“Even just a couple thousand … would impact the market,” Schwartz said. “You don't need to build all 29,915.”