Study finds racial, economic disparities in migration out of Bay Area

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Low-income Black and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate number of out-movers from the Bay Area to more affordable parts of California, according to a study published by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and BuildZoom.

Issi Romem, a fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, co-wrote the study on migration disparities in the Bay Area with Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center.

According to the study, high-income residents ultimately have a wide set of options in terms of which parts of the country they can move to, including other parts of the Bay Area and other metropolitan areas, such as those in the Northeast. Low-income Bay Area residents are increasingly limited to the more affordable parts of California for housing. This greatly lowers their access to education options and employment, “marginalizing them economically,” the study said.

Because regions such as Sacramento and the Central Valley are more affordable, low-income families tend to migrate toward those areas, according to the study.

Romem said the housing problem in the Bay Area is also a generational issue. He said members of the older generation are already homeowners, whereas younger people are currently searching for housing and “bearing the brunt of (the) housing issue.”

Kneebone said in an email that it is now hard for lower-income households to maintain a living in an increasingly expensive Bay Area. To make sure more low-income people and people of color can stay in the Bay Area, affordable housing in changing neighborhoods and strengthened tenant protections are needed, Kneebone said.

In the study, the researchers argued that a solution to the crisis is building more housing at all levels of affordability to ensure residents are able to stay in the Bay Area.

“In the parts of the country where it’s expensive, we argued that the prices of the houses rose because not enough houses were made,” Romem said. “It affects who can live in the cities.”

According to Romem, the first and most important thing to do to slow down the process of house appreciation is to build more housing in large quantities.

María Poblet, a commissioner on the Rent Stabilization Board, said rent control is the strongest protection for people in need of housing. Poblet added that building affordable housing with regulated rents is necessary considering the number of empty houses, along with the number of people living on the street.

“Mostly Black, Latino families are impacted,” Poblet said. “Most people of color rent the homes, so if you regulate rents, it’s a protection for communities of color who are most impacted by gentrification and displacement. This problem is a crisis of affordability. You need to build affordable housing with regulated rents.”

Contact Bella An at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BellaAn_dc.