Rapidly rising rents, exacerbated by the tech boom and short-term rentals, have induced it impossible for many working-class Americans to remain in Santa Cruz
At first, Jamie Kahn tried dismissing the repeated knocks on her front door. It was September 2015, and the 52 -year-old Santa Cruz woman had recently faced an unexpected 40% rent increase that she could not afford.
After missing a rent payment, her new landlords in the northern California beach city quickly moved to evict the single mother and her two children. Kahn thought that if she refused to open the door and accept a summons, she could bide some time to fight the increase from $1,400 to $2,000 a month. She was wrong.
Court records show that a process server repeatedly proved up, and the Kahns ultimately had no choice but to vacate their home of six years. Her 22 -year-old daughter subsequently moved into a small back porch room in a neighboring city. Her 19 -year-old son crashed on couches. Kahn, meanwhile, moved into her black 1995 Camry station wagon where she has been sleeping ever since, often stationed in Walmart parking lots.
California is a monster. If you dont keep up, you end up on the streets, and nobody cares, said Kahn, a college alumnu who previously worked two jobs in Santa Cruz. This is a public health issue. Its a catastrophe.
While housing dearths and homeless epidemics have afflicted communities up and down the west coast, a major crisis has emerged in Santa Cruz, the liberal seaside city 80 miles south of San Francisco, known internationally for its surfing and laid-back boardwalk attractions.
With a swelling presence of Airbnb short-term rentals and university students, Santa Cruz has increasingly become unaffordable and inhospitable to many longtime low-income workers and middle-class families, and experts say the tech boom and housing crunch in nearby Silicon Valley is worsening the displacement.
For newly evicted families such as the Kahns, theres often nowhere to turn except the streets.
Least affordable housing in the US
Santa Cruz, which was originally controlled by Mexico, was incorporated as a California town in 1866. The city is constrained by mountains and the ocean but has steadily grown since the gold rush, attracting agriculture and commercial fishing along with a vibrant resort community and tourism industry.
Housing development has not kept pace with the growth of the population, which is now 62,000 in the city and 270,000 total in Santa Cruz County. The district has added roughly one housing division for every 10 new residents in recent years, according to district housing director Julie Conway.
At the same time, the five largest occupations in the area are low-wage employment opportunities in retail, food service and cleaning, paying between $9.06 and $11.30 an hour, according to 2015 research. As a outcome, 63% of renters live in unaffordable housing, entailing their rent is more than 30% of their income.
By some measures, Santa Cruz is considered the least affordable small metroes area in the US. Santa Cruz which is about 58% white and 33% Latino also recently counted nearly 2,000 homeless people, which translates to one of the highest concentrations in the country, in agreement with the federal government.
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