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The need for housing is acute across Marin County, yet how to address the tremendous need is a thicket of issues and conflicting perspectives.
The good news is that residents can help with an update to the local housing element, which provides an analysis of a community’s housing needs for all income levels and seeks to offer strategies that will respond to them.
By law, the housing element is required as part of the county’s general plan. The 2022 update, happening now, will guide policy and practice through 2030. If a pathway to housing that allows essential workers, students, and people of color to live here is to be achieved, we must seize this moment to address local affordability as key to achieving racial and economic equity.
Challenges around housing affordability in Marin and the greater Bay Area are well known. Issues of affordability for renters in Marin, where 38% of current housing is renter-occupied, deserve particular attention. For approximately 55% of Marin renters, the cost of their current housing exceeds the threshold of what is considered affordable. This means that they pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
Even more concerning, at least 25% of renters currently pay more than 50% of their income toward housing costs.
The lack of affordability undermines individual and family stability. It has ripple effects throughout our community, from the ability of local businesses to hire and retain workers, to increased traffic and commute times when workers cannot afford to live locally.
More concerning and perhaps less well known are the racial disparities present in Marin’s current housing landscape. Homelessness and housing insecurity disproportionately impact people of color, families with children and people with disabilities. These groups are protected under state and federal fair housing laws. But in Marin, a disproportionate share of renters are people of color. Though they are only 18% of the population, 71% of Latinos and 70% of African Americans rent in Marin.