Today’s forecast: increase in rental units in Alameda…

Oh yay.  (Not.)

San Francisco Bay area home prices slid 4.7 percent in February 2011 from February 2010.

Distressed sales accounted for half of all transactions.  Note: discounted prices of foreclosures and distressed properties reduce home prices across the board.  Duh.

Ummm, let’s see:

Negative price pressure +  falling sales + tight credit markets = very few traditional home buyers.

Viola!  In February 2011, the SF Bay Area saw:

– 31% of homes sales purchased with cash (yep, no mortgages)

– 23% of homes sales were purchased by absentee buyers

What do we call those types of buyers?  Oh, right: investors.  You know, those people that don’t actually live in the properties they buy. They rent them.  …

Alameda has about 14,500 home-owner housing units and 16,000 rental housing units; that’s a ratio of 45/55.

A healthy, active (jobs) city has a ratio closer to 60/40 (Palo Alto) or even 70/30 (Walnut Creek). A wealthy city has 80/20 (Los Altos), or even 90/10 (Piedmont).

Given these pretty dire market conditions that are outside of our control combined with the voters *chosen* effects of Measure A (downward pressures on homeownership, upward pressure on rent prices), we can expect more housing units in Alameda to become rentals and more rentals to become vacant.  We can expect our 45/55 ratio to get worse. We already know to expect more small businesses to go vacant (given the Measure A tax burden they don’t share with big biz). These are all very bad things (just in case you needed that clarified).

Recent census data tells us that the percentage of empty homes in Alameda County has doubled in the past decade.  Alameda has been somewhat insulated from this as we’ve had limited new homes on the market, fewer housing starts. Unlike other cities who got development underway and new housing on the market before, and at the start of, the recession, we got lucky: the delays in developing Alameda Point has protected us in this regard. For now.

Our 45/55 ratio is the same as Oakland’s.  Yet somehow Alamedans don’t perceive themselves similar in any way to Oakland. We perceive ourselves superior to Oakland.  Worse, we perceive ourselves more similar to wealthier cities. In fact, media talks about us that way.  It’s inaccurate. The biggest problem facing Alameda today is the ignorance with which our reality is typically framed.  Like Oz, we believe one reality and ignore the abject one right in front of us. We make decisions based upon some iconic belief in what we think we are, and not in reality.  Those decisions cannot take us where we want to go. We are a city caught between our past and our future. The only way out is to get real.  Maybe we need a 12-step program to learn what our current conditions are, and acknowledge them.  How else will we be able to make the radical decisions needed to create a healthy and sustainable economy and future?

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About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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