An affordable housing initiative and an environmental group from the Bay Area have released a new report that lays out the reasons why commuters heading into Marin for work are driven away by housing costs and creating a lack of localized consumer spending.
The report, released Tuesday by Live Local, says Marin’s economy has shifted to lower-paying retail and service jobs with workers who can’t afford to live here, thus increasing pressure on public transportation services.
“When workers’ wages are compared to what it costs to rent or buy a home in Marin versus other communities, it’s no wonder that many of the county’s workers live elsewhere,” said Sonoma State professor Robert Eyler of Marin Economic Forum, which provided the independent economic research and analysis for the report.
The report was released on the same day the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a plan to spread affordable housing throughout he county, not just in areas that have concentrations of minority populations.
More than 61,000 people who have jobs in Marin commute from outside the county each day, and every day they drive home with more than $1.4 billion in annual purchasing power, according to “Driving Home Economic Recovery" (attached).
Live Local, based in San Rafael and partially fueled by grants from the , is a special collaboration of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and the Greenbelt Alliance, a 4,000-member environmental group with an office in San Rafael that advocates for open space, walkable neighborhoods and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The report suggests Marin’s in-bound commuters are driven away by lack of affordable housing, and that creating more housing choices for just one percent of them, or 610 households, would prevent $14 million in annual consumer spending from draining to nearby counties. New revenues would support an estimated 97 new jobs in Marin.
Additionally, during the construction or renovation of 610 homes, Marin would see another $28 million infused into local economies and 181 construction-driven jobs created, the report said.
Dianne Spaulding, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association, said neighboring counties are offering more housing options affordable for Marin workers than Marin does.
“Suddenly, ‘passing the buck’ takes on a whole new meaning as Marin workers drive their paychecks home elsewhere,” she said in a release. “Marin is missing out on jobs and revenue that it could really use right now.”
Anthony Taylor, a resident of Homeward Bound’s transitional housing in Novato, said he is eager to start his own catering business but doesn’t believe he’ll find an affordable place to live in Marin.
“I struggled to turn my life around until Homeward Bound gave me new culinary skills and stable housing,” Taylor said. “I’m about to graduate from the program … but I may have to move to Vallejo and commute back to Marin. I just want to be able give back to the community that helped me.”
The report highlights that housing is getting built in Marin, just not enough of the right type to alleviate the economic problem. The report said Marin's economy has shifted to lower-paying retail and service sector jobs, such as teachers, in-home health aides, childcare workers and restaurant servers. However, the shift in the economy was not matched by home production priced for modest-wage workers.
For people who earn $80,000 or more per year, there is more housing being built than is needed by that workforce segment, the report contends. But for a 54 percent of in-commuters to Marin who earn less than $40,000, there is a shortfall between housing supply and demand.
Cynthia Murray, a former member of the Novato City Council and Marin County Board of Supervisors, said the findings show that Marin has the ability to strengthen communities, accelerate job growth and reduce congestion on Highway 101.
“And it’s feasible without putting all the strain on any one segment of our society,” said Murray, president of the North Bay Leadership Council. “Our employees do not have to suffer long commutes, nor do our business owners need to miss out on revenue.”