Do we want a palo alto where only the rich can move here to live | Invest & Innovate | Steve Levy | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

By Steve Levy

Do we want a palo alto where only the rich can move here to live

Uploaded: Oct 11, 2015

I don't.

I remember meeting Greg Schmid when I played a small role in his school board campaign. We were both economists and were making a decent living but nothing spectacular. Yes we and our wives and children were able to afford a home in Palo Alto.

It is much harder now. I doubt that Greg or I if we were economists in mid-career could afford to live in Palo Alto today.

So unless we do something to change the rules about housing, we will continue down the path of being home to long-time homeowners (I am one now) and rich newcomers. As the older homeowners die (many of us are over 70 already), we will be home to only newcomers who can afford the $2+ million median home price or corresponding rent.

When I looked at Zillow recently to buy a $2 million home, the annual cost with a 20% down payment ($400,000+) is about $115,000 and with a 10% down payment is over $135,000 a year.
Think about whom that excludes.

Forget all that talk on the other blog about "entitled millennials". First, we are not talking here only about people under 35. We are talking about a wide range of family types that were the backbone of Palo Alto but are now priced out. Second, no one is talking subsidies. This is about providing market rate opportunities that cost less than $2 million for ownership and are affordable to renters with good incomes.

And the question I am posing is not what the newcomers want but what we want in Palo Alto going forward.

Do we want to be a town where the only new residents have to be fairly rich?

There are lots of ways to provide market rate housing that is more affordable but the values question is do we want to do that or continue down the current path that once allowed families like Greg's and mine to live here but now does not.

So I join with Arthur Keller, Bob Moss and Stephanie Munoz, all of whom spoke at council last week, and the others in asking the council and citizen's advisory committee to make housing a priority and see how creative we can be in expanding choices within our city.