$250K salary could qualify middle class Palo Alto family for subsidized housing

A home for sale is seen on Pulgas Ave in East Palo Alto, California. © Stephen Lam
Skyrocketing housing prices in Palo Alto have prompted its city council to unanimously approve a plan that would develop homes for those falling through the cracks – specifically those making a paltry $150,000 to $250,000 a year.

Palo Alto’s first subsidized housing plan for moderate-income families would be aimed at providing affordable living space for middle-income professionals such as teachers, firefighters, and government workers. The plan envisions building smaller downtown units near transit for people who don’t own cars, and would be a combination of residential space and retail outlets.

Vice Mayor Greg Scharff proposed the idea after long council discussions determined that the housing crunch sending home prices to new heights was displacing long-time residents, leaving “empty-nest” seniors with no options for downsizing, and exacerbating the city’s traffic, according to Palo Alto online.

Lawmakers also recognized that incomes were too low to afford local rents and too high to qualify for local affordable-housing programs.

“Prices have just gone through the roof, making it unaffordable for middle class people, your firefighters, your teachers, and frankly some of your doctors,” Scharff told CBS.

Scharff worried that losing middle-class workers would hurt the city.

“What the council is proposing is that we work together to fund and subsidize, what is basically middle-class housing; which, traditionally, has not been subsidized,” Scharff said.

CBS reported that small homes on one Palo Alto block were worth between $1.5 and $2 million as teardown property.

“I just find it kind of sad that we are reducing ourselves to this small profile of young, rich, mostly white, mostly tech. It’s not the community that I moved into 33 years ago,” said Randy Bean, a documentary film maker, who told CBS that she couldn’t afford to stay in the area.