Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More Solano County residents own their own home than others statewide

Article Last Updated: 12/13/2005 07:31 AM

Solano residents spending more for their housing

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

More Solano County residents own their own home than others statewide, but they're also spending more of their income to live in them, a new study shows.
"Despite higher income levels and lower poverty levels, more Solano County residents spend a larger percentage of their incomes on housing than people do in the rest of the Bay Area or the state as a whole," said David Carroll, senior policy analyst for the California Budget Project, which conducted the study.

This may indicate more Solano County families are struggling to get by, and many minimum wage workers can't afford to rent here, let alone buy a home, he said.

"Housing is out of reach for minimum wage workers in Solano County," Carroll said. "This is even more true elsewhere in the Bay Area, but it's worse in Solano County than outside the Bay Area."

Seven out of 10 Solano County households own their own home compared to three out of five statewide, Carroll said.

"But one way Solano County families are making that happen is by spending more of their income on housing," he said.

A minimum wage employee in Solano County has to work more than 89 hours a week to afford a studio apartment here. And he or she would have to work more than 159 hours a week to afford an average three-bedroom place, according to the study.

In Solano County, like the rest of the Bay Area, the gap between high- and low-wage earners has widened in the past 25 years, the study shows. However, much of the region's job and income fluctuations were driven by the high-tech industry. Solano County's more diversified economy helped it ride out the dot-com bust better than areas like Silicon Valley.

While the incomes of the Bay Area's highest earners rose substantially in the late 1990s, they stayed flat for the region's low-wage workers, Carroll said. This disproves the old adage that "a rising tide lifts all boats," he said.

"We always hear that economic growth is the solution to poverty, but this shows that's not necessarily true," Carroll said.

In the Bay Area, the study showed Solano County's annual median family income - $68,793 - to be nearly at the bottom, higher only than San Francisco's $68,668. The statewide median income is $58,327, the study shows.

At $57,334, Solano County's median household income, which refers to all household including singles living alone, is the lowest in the Bay Area, with Alameda's $59,325 a close second.

At 6.2 percent, Solano has the second smallest percentage of families with annual incomes below the Federal Poverty Level. San Mateo's is lowest at 5.2 percent. San Mateo and Solano counties also have the first and second lowest percentage of children in families with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level (4.9 percent and 7.7 percent), the study shows.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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