A study and resulting “toolbox” of policies and other resources could help local agencies in San Joaquin County keep vulnerable populations from being displaced from their communities because of rising housing costs.
According to the “Community, Diversity and Displacement Study” by the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG), Enterprise Community Partners, and UC Davis Center for Regional Change, many San Joaquin County residents are at risk of displacement, which is when a household moves due to circumstances beyond the households’ reasonable ability to control or prevent.
“Housing construction in California for decades has lagged behind the demand driven by population growth,” said Bernadette Austin, Center for Regional Change’s executive director. “The persistent housing challenges faced by county households include a lack of affordable housing, poor quality housing conditions, and a lack of tenant protections and legal aid. It’s very important to look at these factors and find possible solutions so people from a range of incomes and backgrounds can stay in their homes for as long as they want.”
The study found that the challenges are not equally spread among all San Joaquin County residents. Populations most vulnerable to displacement include renters, seniors, disabled and low-income residents. People of color are disproportionately affected by displacements, which creates disparities in who has access to secure, affordable housing.
“Understanding the challenges and risks of displacement can help shape transportation investment strategies to support housing stability, while creating local community benefits and avoiding residential displacement,” added SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen. “There is a symbiotic relationship between diverse neighborhoods and, say, successful transit. Transit systems benefit from the sociodemographic and economic diversity of the neighborhoods that they serve.”
Two new resources were developed during the study, including a Displacement Risk Mapping Tool, which can be used to better understand which neighborhoods face the greatest displacement risk and identify parts of the county where vulnerable households have been effectively priced out of housing, and a Housing Policy Toolkit for San Joaquin County. The toolkit provides local jurisdictions with information to help implement the Three Ps of Housing — protection, preservation and production — and a mix of policy tools that can help to stabilize neighborhoods and protect diversity in the region.
Researchers adapted the San Francisco Bay Area’s Urban Displacement Project to look at data specific to San Joaquin County such as changes in income levels, loss of low-income households, and changes in housing costs to predict the chances that neighborhoods are experiencing or likely to experience displacement of lower-income residents. What they found:
- Some 51 percent of San Joaquin County census tracts — small, relatively permanent areas of the county where demographic data can be updated — are already moving though gentrification and may be excluding low-income households. Gentrification is the change of a neighborhood over time that includes new investment in a neighborhood, such as new retail or transit, and new types of residents with higher income and educational attainment who are typically whiter.
- Nearly 30 percent of census tracts are relatively stable.
- About 20 Percent of census tracts are at high risk of displacement and actively in the gentrification process.
Part of the issue is that the San Francisco Bay Area economy recovered strongly after the Great Recession and continued to outpace the region’s ability to provide affordable housing. That drove up housing prices in the Bay Area, so Bay Area workers looked elsewhere, including the San Joaquin region, for affordable housing. Their higher-paying jobs have given them a competitive edge in the San Joaquin County housing market, which helped to drive up home prices here by 143 percent since 2012.
The situation for renters is just as dire. The county’s renter household rate stands at 44 percent of the population, but more than half — 55 percent of renters compared to 34.4 percent of homeowners — are considered cost-burdened, which means they are paying more than 30 percent of their household income for housing. More than 80 percent of extremely low-income households in the county are severely cost-burdened, meaning they are paying half of their annual income for housing. A renter in San Joaquin County must earn twice the current minimum wage to afford the county’s average monthly rent of $1,336.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders made the housing situation in San Joaquin County worse with unemployment filings up by 820 percent by April 2020. Ongoing research by University of the Pacific shows some economic recovery since then, which is at least partly due to the county’s reliance on the logistics and transportation sectors that were less affected by the pandemic. (Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research is set to release a report this month during a virtual SJCOG Speaker Series event on the lasting effects of the pandemic. Learn more here: https://bit.ly/3zSTwvz.)
The Community, Diversity and Displacement Study recommended SJCOG could expand efforts to ensure its investments advance social equity in San Joaquin County by:
- Establishing a countywide working group focused on housing and land use issues.
- Establishing a project selection committee similar to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ Engage, Empower, Implement program to assess the impacts of a project on the community before it is developed. SJCOG could also develop internal equitable development guidelines.
- Implementing programing to support infrastructure and housing development.
- Establishing incentives through new or existing discretionary funding to encourage member jurisdictions to meet housing goals.
The recommendations will be considered this summer and fall by stakeholders, committees and the SJCOG Board as SJCOG develops priorities for its Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) 2.0 Program for planning and implementation funding. The public, stakeholders and others are providing input on how SJCOG utilizes its $10.6 million allocation in REAP 2.0 funds.
SJCOG is also a conducting a study though June 2023 on whether a housing trust fund could help local jurisdictions preserve affordable housing and accelerate housing production.