Study: Displaced residents face many other obstacles | News | Almanac Online |


Study: Displaced residents face many other obstacles


Low-income renters who are displaced from their homes tend to experience many adverse impacts in other areas of their lives, a recent study that focused on San Mateo County residents shows.

Such displaced renters are left with fewer job options and health services, longer commutes and greater environmental and safety concerns, according to a study by researchers Justine Marcus and Mirian Zuk with U.C. Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

The data is based on in-depth surveys of 100 renters from San Mateo County who received assistance from Community Legal Services, an East Palo Alto nonprofit that helps low-income people.

Of the 100 renters, 58 had been displaced in the last two years. Respondents had a median household income of $25,480.

According to countywide date, 87 percent of low- and moderate-income renters in San Mateo County are "housing burdened," meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Between 2000 and 2015, San Mateo County lost 44 percent of its non-subsidized affordable housing for low-income households.

The surveys found that of the people who reported being displaced in the last two years, one in three had experienced homelessness or marginal housing (defined as living in a motel or hotel, renting a garage, or "couch-surfing"); only one in five was able to find a new place to live within a mile of their former residence; and one in three left the county. Several reported that their families had to split up to find housing.

Those who did leave the county saw their one-way commute time increase by an average of 47 minutes and commute cost rise by $390 a month for the main household earner.

The study, published in May, also reported that respondents said they'd experienced landlord practices that could be considered harassment or discriminatory. In other instances, market forces created pressure on landlords to evict their current tenants because of plans to sell, renovate, or move into the property.

Between 2012 and 2015, the study reports, there was a 59 percent increase in the number of evictions for people who couldn't pay rent on time and a 300 percent in no-cause evictions in the county.

One survey respondent reported that after she complained about cockroaches in her Menlo Park apartment, the landlord told her to move out.

Another person reported being evicted from a Menlo Park property because the landlord received an unsolicited offer on the property for more money than he felt he could refuse.

In other instances, people had difficulty finding housing because landlords required credit checks or proof of income of triple the rent.

People who opted to move into cramped living quarters rather than be homeless said the close quarters limited privacy and strained relationships with the friends or family they were living with.

In communities where people relocated – mainly in eastern parts of the East Bay or the Central Valley, the study says – there are fewer healthcare facilities, and air quality is often worse. About two-thirds of kids in displaced families had to change schools.

The report concluded, "Homeless and marginal housing, often considered fringe experiences, were startlingly common among displaced households."


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21 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm

It is time to peak at Abraham Maslow’s 1943 hierarchy of needs so we can better understand people living at the lower end of the hierarchy. Living at the high end can make us a bit oblivious to the obvious.

16 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 5:08 pm

pearl is a registered user.

The greedy landlords/owners!!! Some day their greed and treatment of their fellow human beings will come back to bite them on the hind end. Shame, shame, shame on them!!!!!!! ;(

6 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:27 pm

How is it "their" home if they are renters? Aren't they leaseholders? Is this misleading fake news or is there a law where if you rent somewhere long enough you get to own it then?

13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:01 pm

Your home is where you live. A house or apartment is property. Rich people may not understand what renting is like.

4 people like this
Posted by Kevin Yoon
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Mary is right. Just like anyone else in the country, no one is entitled to live anywhere they like, if it is too expensive then move somewhere else. This entitlement and privilege mentality killing the country.

I came to this country and didn't move to Menlo Park. Why? Because it was too expensive. Not SF. Why? Too expensive. I was responsible and worked three jobs out in Arizona before making something of myself. Once I had enough money, meaning people voluntarily gave me money because I provided them with goods and services they valued, only then was I able to live in Menlo Park.

4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I've rented and I've owned. I'm quite familiar with the difference. Never when I rented did I consider the property I rented as "mime." Because it wasn't. I you want a home that belongs to you, buy it.

26 people like this
Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 22, 2017 at 10:49 pm


Have you ever lived in a residence that you didn't personally own? When heading back to your apartment/dorm room/etc., did you say "I'm heading to my leased domicile now"? or did you refer to it as "home"? I didn't see this article preaching the gospel of squatter's rights. Let's not to be glib when discussing something so serious.

Housing displacement is a major issue in this area: for grad students, service workers, families, etc. I was standing in a long, slow line in the understaffed Starbucks on Avy the other day and the employees were discussing how everyone was quitting because they couldn't afford to live here...which is too bad, because it's hard for me to make my own coffee before I've had coffee (and I suspect I'm not alone here). There are so many people who work for us: nurses, school teachers (yes, even the highly paid Menlo Park school teachers often end up commuting long distances from places more affordable), restaurant employees, gardeners, health care aides, nannies, bank tellers, retail workers, etc.

I don't know about you, Kevin, but coffee, health care, etc. are goods and services that I do value. We need more affordable housing, period.

I don't think the answer is rent control, which unfairly penalizes landlords while benefiting a random set of people. It's probably just building more housing, period. A thought leader recently described local government and NIMBYism as "death by a thousand cuts." We need to do better.

2 people like this
Posted by Thinking for myself
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:30 am

Katie, you make some excellent points on a profoundly important topic.

But you lost me with your reference to a "thought leader" (wince ... moan ... wail) who described NIMBYism (agreed) and local government (?!) as death by a thousand cuts. Local government? Did this person you refer to offer an alternative to local government, or did he/she qualify the statement to mean "incompetent" local government? Or, does this person think Google/Amazon/Facebook/etc. would do a better job keeping our society and economy in fine working order?

2 people like this
Posted by Coffee conundrum
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2017 at 9:17 am

I'm kinda stuck on:

"it's hard for me to make my own coffee before I've had coffee"

Thot that was just me...

Seriously: this will continue to have long lasting repercussions. I don't know the answer. But I am really weary of hearing about yet another family/co-worker/friend/relative electing to bail because they can't make it here.


15 people like this
Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

Pre-coffee, so bear with me.

"Thinking for myself", re: "thought leader"–-touché. ;-) Ham-handed term, that. Let's say...former White House Economic Council Member/business leader/entrepreneur focused on job development.

But the point the guy was making (sorry; couldn't find a better way to identify him without naming him, and the conversation was in a private setting) was this: housing and transportation issues that we face aren't problems that can be solved exclusively at the federal and state levels. Local governments are supposed to devise housing elements, transportation plans, etc. But all too often, at least here, the planning is as far as it goes.

Have you ever sat through a planning commission meeting? Have you noticed how much energy people put into debating the livelihood of one tree, or the energetic front that a neighborhood will throw up to avoid having extra development in their proximity? Remember the Willow Rd. under-crossing that never happened? The ceaseless debate over how and when and whether to separate our grades, mostly necessitating periodic costly study sessions?

I don't want to be overly snarky. We're probably all NIMBYs at heart. No one wants to deal with extra traffic or reduced property values or whatever else they fear will change as our community moves from a 1950s single-family-home, car-centric suburban existence to a denser, more urban place. I remember the words "village character" being used a lot during the Measure M days. It's hard when you buy into one kind of community and watch it evolve into another. Business booms are a double-edged sword.

But meanwhile, vacant lots stay vacant. Housing costs soar, which definitely benefits homeowners, at least financially, especially those who bought before the tech booms. I don't think we can preserve our village under glass in light of the change around us...not if we still want lattes, or nurses, or after school care providers. And the negative externalities that also affect our quality of life, albeit more indirectly, are becoming clear: traffic. Road rage. Smog. Displacement. Turnover.

Strong, effective local government is essential. There is no alternative, although companies devise workarounds all the time, which mostly end up benefiting them. See: Google buses. Facebook-funded police force. Stanford building housing that they exclusively will use (not a company, but you catch my drift). But it's also not super functional right here right now. Maybe that's the case everywhere?

14 people like this
Posted by Thinking for myself
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:34 am

Thanks for the explanation, Katie. And for the thoughtful and intelligent comments on a topic that way too often turns heartless.

7 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Rent control works well. Good tenants remain housed, landlords receive a fair return on their investment, there is better socioeconomic diversity to address various jobs needs in a community, students who are tenants - including grad students - perform better in school, and communities are overall better stabilized.

You can enjoy your home whether you're a tenant or a homeowner. Smart tenants respect the property that they're leading. Smart residential landlords know their property is someone else's home. The laws reflect the truth that a tenant's home is someone else's property.

But this article actually deals with very serious, life-changing and often ruinous results of this housing crisis. Those of us who've never had to experience this type of disruptive debacle are lucky, not morally or intellectually superior, because it happens even to smart people who make good choices.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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