California Today: How California’s Housing Crisis Could Hit Seniors Hard

Audrey Jenkins, a resident of Heritage Park at Hilltop, an affordable housing development in Richmond. She and others living there are worried about rising rents. <br /><br />

“The way their formula...

“The way their formula works is not really taking into consideration the local situation,” she said, noting that Richmond’s incomes are lumped in with those of Walnut Creek, a wealthy East Bay bedroom community, and Oakland[1], which is grappling with its own wave of tech-fueled gentrification.

Case in point: The median family income[2] in the Oakland-Fremont metro area that HUD is using this year is $111,700. That includes Richmond. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Richmond is $61,045[3].

That’s near the core of a looming problem for communities across the state, said Nari Rhee[4], the director of the retirement security research program at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Just because high rents are legally defensible and are supported by the market doesn’t mean they are sustainable for a fast-growing and increasingly vulnerable[5] senior population, she said.

Research she’s worked on has shown that more Californians, especially women and people of color, are retiring with fewer resources. And there’s almost no way that the state will be able to build enough below-market rate homes for them.

“We always talk about the housing crisis but it’s going to be really dire for seniors,” Ms. Rhee said. “There’s this kind of attitude we will charge whatever we can, and there’s no essentially moral calculus about what is actually a justifiable rent increase.”

According to a 2015 report[6] Ms. Rhee edited, well more than half of Bay Area seniors 65 and older who were renters did not have enough income to meet their basic needs. Those numbers were projected to get worse.


  1. ^ Oakland (
  2. ^ median family income (
  3. ^ in Richmond is $61,045 (
  4. ^ Nari Rhee (
  5. ^ fast-growing and increasingly vulnerable (
  6. ^ 2015 report (

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