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Fewer families affording, buying homes

Louis Hansen, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

The number of U.S. families with children owning homes fell by 3.6 million over the last decade, as rising housing prices pushed many out of the market.

The San Francisco metro area, including the East Bay, saw 31,000 fewer home-owning families between 2006 and 2016, a decline of 10 percent, according to a recent survey by Rent Cafe. The number of families renting homes in San Francisco and Oakland grew by 57,000, or 33 percent.

When given a choice between high rent or a higher mortgage, families are choosing to rent. "They basically can't afford the costs," said Florentina Sarac, a researcher for Rent Cafe. Many families also lost homes during the wave of foreclosures in the 2008 recession, and have been unable to purchase another house, she said.

Families face a tough economic reality: Bay Area rents rose 39 percent between 2006 and 2016, home prices rose 80 percent. "The choice is pretty clear," Sarac said.

The survey did not study the San Jose metro area, where median sale prices for homes have been rising steadily for six years and now top $1 million in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

High housing prices have had an impact on local schools. Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said districts throughout the county are seeing lower enrollment as young families leave for more affordable cities.

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Schools have noticed a rise in multiple families sharing a rented single family home, she said. Other families are living in cars and RVs, adding to the stress on young children.

"The unknown can weigh as a heavy burden on a young person's mental ability," Dewan said. The pressure can lead to behavior and learning problems, as students enter school tired and hungry.

The Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto has seen a growing number of its students displaced or living in temporary housing. About 40 percent of the students in the small district are considered homeless by federal standards.

The transient housing for many students has led the district to offer more services to families -- food pantries, a free laundromat and ad hoc fundraising campaigns.

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