“Towering five-story projects could be built in currently protected areas like our downtown."
“The yards and trees will have been ripped out.”
“Our neighborhoods will be changed forever.”
There’s a lot of bluster, and warnings about what nightmares may lay ahead, if California's State Legislature “forces” cities to build more homes to address our state’s abysmal record of keeping up with the needs of California’s growing population. But for all the bluster, and dire predictions in recent conversations about our housing crisis, there’s scant reference to the current reality facing young people in California. The crisis we are facing. Because the fact is, the California that many in Pleasanton, understandably, pine for — is already a thing of the past.
Let’s look at some basic facts that face a “hopeful young family” looking to buy a home in Pleasanton right now. This past May, Pleasanton home prices were up 42.1% compared to last year — selling for a median price of $1.6M. The average rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Pleasanton, anywhere from $2,500-$2,700. The average student debt a college graduate in California leaves school with: $35,000. The average cost of childcare in California, for one child, during their infant and preschool years: $15,000-$20,000. Per year.
Those are basic facts facing hopeful young families today. Now, you may look at all those numbers, and ask yourselves: How can young people possibly afford to do it all? Because, traditionally, the tried-and-true advice is to have 20% saved up as a down payment on a new home. Right now, for the average home in Pleasanton in 2021, that means having $320,000 handy. How on earth are young people today supposed to come up with that sum, on top of their already unaffordable rents, paying down their student loans, and all the rest?
The reality is, many just can’t.
The California that many like to recall with a glint in their eye, is already a thing of the past. From 1981 to 2019, the average age of home buyers (according to the National Association of Realtors) went from 31 to 47. The average age of a first-time home buyer is now 35. And that’s before the latest, crazy, surge in home prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By age 30, 51% of Baby Boomers had already purchased their first home. 48% of Gen Xers had purchased their first home by 30. Millennials? 42%. And with the current trend of ever-increasing home prices, the next generation will fare even worse.
It’s easy to blame faceless legislators in “Sacramento” for our housing woes. For our housing affordability crisis. Images of trees being uprooted, “towering five story buildings downtown,” and speculators looking to get rich quick — make for easy scapegoats. Nobody likes change. Nobody wants to see the neighborhood they love, forever altered.
But the truth is, our neighborhoods have already changed. They are older. They are more exorbitantly expensive and out-of-reach to the recent generations of high school graduates of Pleasanton schools — cordoned off to the sons and daughters of many of those still living in these beautiful neighborhoods.
The rhetoric used in our conversations about housing tends to be intense, dramatic, vivid, and disconcerting. But the fact is, the reality is already incredibly dire for those who don’t already have the good fortune of owning a home in California.
We need less bluster, and more solutions. We need to have the tough conversations about how we fix this predicament we find ourselves in — how we are going to build more homes, and fast — so that those hopeful young families aren’t forever priced out of Pleasanton.
Because the way things stand now, most already are.
And that can’t be blamed on those legislators over in Sacramento.
We find ourselves in this predicament because of land-use decisions made over the course of many decades — at the local level.
- Dean Wallace
District Director for State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and proud Pleasanton resident/renter