Silicon Valley, Where the Middle Class Live in Cars
Mountain View, Calif. is part of Silicon Valley and home to Google and a host of other technology companies. It also has at least 126 residents living in cars, according to a count conducted this summer, PBS Newshour reports. Out of over 74,000 total residents, that’s a pretty small percentage, but the real surprise is who those car-dwellers sometimes are: not the typical homeless people, subsisting well below the poverty line, but people with jobs—sometimes ones that pay what would otherwise be a middle-class wage.
The problem is the high cost of living in Mountain View and the other cities that Silicon Valley comprises, including Cupertino (home of Apple), Palo Alto (home of SAP and HP), and Menlo Park (home of Facebook). A recent report from Real Answers showed that housing prices might be stabilizing in Santa Clara County, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal, but with rents increasing 6.5 percent since last year, and averaging $2,361 for a one-bedroom, they’re still out of reach for middle-class workers.
“The only apartment we’ve looked at so far that looks like it’s in a safe neighborhood goes for almost $2,400 a month,” Marcia Christleib, an environmental consultant for NASA, tells PBS. “That’s a huge portion of a salary, and we’re just going to have to give up other conveniences. I still can only afford the things I could afford when I was making minimum wage, because everything else goes to rent.”
Christleib, who earns $65,000 a year, lives with her husband in an RV parked at a construction site.
Even High-Earners Are Feeling the Pinch
A Software Engineer at Facebook (median annual salary: $120,116) or Apple (median annual salary: $119,472) might be able to pay those rents, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, either. A report from Indeed found that over a quarter of Software Engineers in San Francisco are looking for jobs out of state, mostly in tech hubs like Austin and Seattle, where their earnings will be lower but go much further.
In fact, a 2015 study from real estate firm Redfin found that one in four Bay Area residents were looking for homes outside the area.
“It’s possible that these people are searching for second homes, but given that they’re looking in big cities like Seattle and Portland, that doesn’t seem too likely,” Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told Business Insider.
Tech companies are aware of the criticism that their high-earning workers are driving up prices; recently, Facebook recently announced plans to build housing for its employees and for lower-income residents.
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