People Pay More Than Half Their Income on Rent

I was looking through some statistics today about the economy in Sonoma County (California), and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This rental housing crisis is out of control. People are paying out the nose for housing, while income property owners/developers are making a killing. It’s just wrong on so many levels.”


According to, the average monthly rent for a two bedroom unit in Sonoma County is $3108. For a year, that comes to $37,296.00. The average yearly income in Sonoma County is $67771. That calculates at $5648 per month income, and $3108 per month for rent. As you can see, the average rent is over half of the average income. Half of $5648 is $2824 – or $284 over half of what the average income worker earns in a month. 

More and more people are being gouged and even displaced by skyrocketing rents – in a tight rental market that is increasingly catering to the more affluent, at the expense of ‘average folks’. According to the North By Business Journal:

“Median-income households in the Santa Rosa metropolitan statistical area, which includes Petaluma, spent an average 39.8 percent of their monthly income on rent at the end of 2013. That rate represented a 49.1 percent increase compared to the Zillow benchmark for average share of income used for rent in the period between 1985 and 2000, beating the rate of increase for the high-rent stalwart of San Francisco over the same period by 3.7 percent. “

Similar news is reflected in these sobering statistics compiled by the North Bay Organizing Project (.pdf document).

Meanwhile, wages have remained relatively stagnant, or are even shrinking, over the last 15 or 20 years.  Income property investors, property management companies and individual rental property owners typically place their desire for increasing personal income over the personal health, safety and welfare of those who rent from them. That is, they make their money on the backs of the people who are often circumstantially forced to pay their increasingly ridiculous rents.

Largely as a result of these runaway housing costs, more and more people are being displaced and far too many end up homeless.  Among rental property owners, who cares who they displace? A Veteran who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – people’s sons and even daughters who served their country honorably … so? If they can’t pay, then screw ‘em. Elderly folks who are vulnerable to the whims of these property owners … so what? Peoples’ fathers and mothers … they’re old and have lived beyond their usefulness, so who cares? As long as we get our money, who cares.

And what about the County government? What are they doing to help combat runaway rents? Well, as reported in the Press Democrat

“The Santa Rosa City Council rejected a hastily proposed moratorium on rent increases of more than 3 percent Tuesday but embraced expanding services to help more homeless people get off the streets. “

“The council unanimously agreed to boost support for the county’s new Homeless Outreach Services Team, backing a plan endorsed by city staff to spend nearly $500,000 on new services in and around the city.

“These include a 24/7 hotline for people facing homelessness, stipends for people willing to help clear out encampments and a “rapid rehousing” program that gives homeless people vouchers for a place to stay — such as a hotel, motel or campground — while they explore other housing options.”

Landlords fought against the proposal and whined about losing money, and about increases in their costs that they say justified rent increases.  The people who can’t afford their housing units are facing poverty, displacement, and even homelessness – and in some cases, even loss of life. Being homeless is exceptionally hard on older and disabled persons.  But we landlords … we just can’t take not being able to raise rents! Our renters have to pay our bills for us!

In the meantime, check out the lavish kind of house many of these property owners live in, compared to what we pay out the nose for  … while we feel sorry for property owners having to delay increasing our rents.

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