Housing less affordable in Solano than in San Francisco

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - Living in Solano County is less affordable than most places in the Bay Area, placing a burden on low-income and working poor families in the area, according to a recent report.

A household must earn $19.17 an hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in Solano County, according to the California Coalition for Rural Housing and the National Low Income Housing Coalition's report, "Out of Reach 2006." That means a family must have nearly three minimum-wage earners to afford a modest apartment.

For low-income families and the working poor, which U.S. Census figures put at about 30,000 people in Solano County, options are limited.

"We're finding that when families come in to work with us, we're placing them in Winters and Woodland (in Yolo County) because it's so high and unaffordable here," said P.J. Davis, executive director of Community Action Partnership of Solano. CAP Solano grants funds received from federal, state and local agencies to nonprofits in Solano County.

Part of the reason for families to leave the county falls with the wages paid. For instance, the mean renter wage in Solano County is $11.74 with the medium rent for an apartment at $997 per month.
In San Francisco, on the contrary, housing is more affordable, according to the report, because the mean salary is $5 more an hour than Solano County, with a household needing only 1.2 wage earners to afford a modest apartment. In Solano, a household needs 1.6 workers making the mean renter wage to afford the same apartment.

"It's a pretty bad scene wherever you look and it's becoming more difficult for lower-income families to live in California overall," said Darryl Rutherford, spokesperson for the California Coalition for Rural Housing.

Perhaps a coincidence, this was the first time in a decade that California did not experience an increase in population, Rutherford added, with more people moving out of the state.

"It's a trend you're starting hear about," he said.

A solution, Davis believes, is to increase wages in order to eliminate poverty.

"The only way is to work on getting people a decent wage and make sure they have jobs and benefits," she said. The 2006 poverty guideline states a family of three is considered on the level of poverty if the monthly income is $1,383 or less.

"If you are in poverty, you can get your children health care. But if you're the working poor, you cannot qualify for those types of health insurances so you end up taking the family to the emergency room and it's more costly, but there is no other way of dealing with this issue."