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For millennials, Bay Area home ownership a fading dream

Louis Hansen, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Cinnamon Westbrook knew the Bay Area would be challenging but expensive when she moved from Texas to take a position as a psychologist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

She and her husband, Robert Porter, a lawyer, settled into a rental in Sunnyvale -- a reasonable commute for both and a place they could stay while Westbrook was expecting her first child.

But during her pregnancy, their landlord announced she was planning to renovate the home and move in, prompting an eight-month-pregnant Westbrook and her husband to frantically search for a new home.

"We had no plans to move," said Westbrook, a 35-year-old with a doctorate in psychology. High prices and unstable housing have caused the couple to reconsider their long-term future in the Bay Area. "It's been such a nightmare," she said.

They're among the growing number of Bay Area millennials who feel more and more angst about their ability to continue living here. Residents in their early 20s through late 30s face a more expensive, more crowded and generally bleaker housing future, according to a recent survey by real estate website Zumper.

Among millennials surveyed, 3 in 10 expect to move elsewhere in the next year, and 4 in 10 live with a significant other -- higher than any other age group. Many no longer believe home ownership is part of the American Dream.


"I think people feel like they pay to play here," said Zumper CEO Anth Georgiades. Young professionals can put up with high Bay Area prices for the possibility of a big payoff -- a successful startup, appreciating stock options and the opportunity to work in a diverse and competitive culture, he said.

Zumper, a website for rental listings and property management, conducted the informal survey of 10,219 online U.S. users in May and June. The survey, open to those 18 and older, reflected its heaviest users -- younger renters living in cities -- rather than a broad cross-section of renters around the country, the company said.

Bay Area renters surveyed were far more likely to live with roommates than their peers in other parts of the country. About 37% of the region's renters lived with roommates -- not their parents or partners -- compared with 24% nationwide.

Among Bay Area renters between the ages of 23 and 38, roughly 4 in 10 said they spent more than the recommended 30% of their gross income on housing. Most experts consider a family or individual "rent-stressed" if they spend more than one-third of their paycheck on shelter.


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