A home provides the foundation for a person's educational attainment, physical and mental health, stable employment, social connections, and wealth building. At the neighborhood level, adequate housing is a critical component to the overall economic vitality and quality of life within the community.
When the cost of housing becomes too expensive relative to a family’s income, the benefits of housing begin to break down. According to HUD, spending more than 30% of household income on rent is called “rent burden”. Rent-burdened households--especially ones with low incomes--need to make difficult trade-offs when it comes to paying for their basic needs, such as food, medical care, child care, and transportation. Cutting these expenses has negative impacts on health, education, and employment, all of the benefits we expect housing to provide.
Rent-burdened or “housing insecure” families are more at risk of falling behind on rent payments, living in substandard or overcrowded housing, being evicted, and becoming homeless. Additionally, these households experience greater levels of stress and trauma. They have greater difficulty building up savings and buying a home, which would generate greater financial stability and wealth. These consequences lead to long-term, generational challenges that create a cycle of poverty that is very difficult to escape. This cycle of poverty disproportionately affects African Americans who have faced housing discrimination for decades.
When a concentration of rent-burdened families live in a high poverty area, like South Stockton, economic vitality and quality of life deteriorate. By reducing the number of rent-burdened households, we can stabilize their financial situations and strengthen the community as an economically vibrant and healthy place to live.
The Neighborhood Transformation workgroup examined the flat trend-line of rent-burdened households in the South Stockton Promise Zone from 2013-2019 and identified the following factors to add context to this data.
Rent has been increasing in this area, while wages in San Joaquin County have stayed the same or even declined in some industries. Other basic costs have also been rising, including food, utilities, prescriptions, and gas. This means that many working families newly became rent-burdened during this period, especially those who are not eligible for SNAP and other benefits, despite having trouble making ends meet. On a similar note, there are households that do qualify for assistance and services, but they are not aware of them or have difficulty accessing them due to language, technology, or other systemic barriers.
At the same time, there are families that did not fully recover financially from the collapse of the housing market during the Great Recession in 2008-2009. Many South Stockton families, especially African Americans, lost their homes to foreclosure (which has repercussions including damaged credit) and became renters. In fact, homeownership is declining in the Promise Zone, leading to more people renting and more competition for available rental homes.
Equally important is the fact that housing production in Stockton has not kept up with increasing demand. There are not enough available homes across all income levels. South Stockton primarily consists of single family homes, which means less efficient use of space to house residents (compared to duplexes, triplexes, or multi-floor apartment buildings). The lack of rental homes affordable to people with low incomes is even more severe. In fact, the workgroup believes that this data curve hides the number of multi-generational or overcrowded homes where multiple households are living together to collectively pay rent.
Stockton is also experiencing displacement pressure from surrounding areas. Many people are moving here from the Bay Area or Tracy because rent is relatively cheaper in Stockton. Landlords, property owners, and outside investors are taking advantage of this situation to raise rent, which squeezes existing Promise Zone residents and increases rent burden.
What data do we still want to get?
Our cross-sector workgroup includes affordable housing developers, community organizers, direct service providers, healthcare institutions, and public agencies.
What should we stop doing or be doing less?