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Housing

Just How Pricey Is Housing in Sonoma County?

By Janet Wells

"Sonoma County is one of least affordable counties to live in the United States," according to the 1999 Community Action Report, which assesses the economic, social, and environmental health of the region. The California Association of Realtors adds that only 29 percent of the local households could afford a median-priced home in 1996, compared to 39 percent statewide and 54 percent nationally. Santa Rosa's affordability ranks 186 out of 190 cities included in a 1997 survey.


Sticker Shock!

Last year, as new home sales increased by 6 percent, the median base price for a detached home rose by 18 percent. At the end of the year, the median base price countywide was $271,950, up $41,460 from 1998. Take a glance at the annual rate of increase behind Sonoma County's skyrocketing median home prices.

 January 1999November 1999% Change
Coast$342,000$367,4507%
Healdsburg$222,700$269,50017%
Petaluma/West$272,250$310,00012%
Petaluma/East$230,000$266,00014%
RP/Cotati area$200,000$229,00013%
Santa Rosa$199,236$231,50014%
Sebastopol$299,250$361,00017%
Sonoma $265,000$301,00012%


Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Room?

In the next decade, Sonoma County will be the fourth fastest-growing county in the Bay Area, with an estimated 20,374 households added to the current 167,168 by 2006, according to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment released by the Association of Bay Area Governments. Where to put all the new people? ABAG estimates that the county needs to build more than 25,000 units of rental and ownership housing to accommodate growth. If construction activity based on the Housing Needs Assessment 10 years ago in Santa Rosa--one of the only cities to tally its affordable-housing stock--is any indication, Sonoma County will remain woefully behind in providing low- and moderate-income housing. However, if you're pulling down an above-moderate-level income (over $59,000 for a family of four), developers are more than happy to accommodate you. Other potential homeowners already are moving north to Cloverdale and beyond.

Santa Rosa Affordable-Housing Construction, 1990-95

 Low & Very Low Income Moderate Above Moderate
ABAG need3,437 units1,0531,151
Permits issued 4056833,041
Source: Santa Rosa Department of Community Development

Affordable-Housing Needs for Sonoma County, 1999-2006

 Very Low*Low*Moderate*Above Moderate*
Cloverdale9352124144
Cotati9655140191
Healdsburg11683176218
Petaluma10867162260
Rohnert Park16611524535
Santa Rosa1,1017121,5022,150
Sebastopol33204361
Sonoma1247815219
Windsor7224019301,418
Unincorporated2,5222,1862,9695,364
Total5,0843,7686,44910,381
Source: Association of Bay Area Governments


*Annual income level is for a four-person household.
Very low income = $27,150 and below (19 percent of the population)
low income = $27,151 to $43,440 (18 percent)
moderate income = $43,440 to $65,160 (24 percent)
above moderate = $65,161 and above (39 percent).

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From the January 6-12, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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