Sonoma County Transportation & Land Use Coalition



Affordable Housing

Good transportation alternatives weren't the only victims of sprawl development. Housing affordable to all is another. And both the lack of choices in transportation and in housing primarily impacts the people in the bottom half of the income scale.

There are plenty of reasons why we have an affordability problem, and a number of potential solutions. One of the solutions is inclusionary housing required by housing ordinances -- mandates that a specified percentage of housing in new developments be priced below a given level. Naturally, this approach is commonly resisted by developers. A letter written by SCTLC member Rick Theis challenges the developer arguments and explains the central role played by the price of land.

Some insights on the land price issue can be obtained from the maps below.

Housing affordability map of U.S.
Housing Affordability map of Sonoma County
click the maps for larger scale

In these maps the number of years of median family income required to buy a median price home (a basic measure of affordability) is shown by colors ranging from dark green (most affordable) to deep orange (least affordable. The contrast between the map of the U.S. and the map of Sonoma County shows that Sonoma County is atypical, in having far worse affordability than the nation as a whole.

Another insight that pops out, especially from the US map, is that affordability is a pretty strict result of the attractiveness of an area to live in. Not too surprising to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics.

Does this mean that making a community more attractive is pre-empting the possibility of affordability for all?