A new ULI survey of attitudes among San Francisco Bay area residents, intended as a companion piece to ULI’s America in 2015 survey released earlier this year, was designed to gauge residents’ preferences concerning housing, community features, access to health-enhancing amenities, and transportation. Here is a preview of the report, Bay Area in 2015, which was a collaboration among the ULI Building Healthy Places Initiative, the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, and ULI San Francisco.
Residents of the Greater San Francisco Bay area, the nine-county area that stretches from Sonoma County south through Santa Clara County, are generally happy with the quality of life in their communities, but certain important stressors—particularly high housing prices and unbearable traffic congestion—could lead them to make changes. That is particularly true for millennials.
The Bay Area’s housing is notoriously unaffordable. The nation’s top two least-affordable markets for resale homes in the second quarter of 2015 were San Jose, where the median price of a single-family home was $980,000, and San Francisco, where the median price was $841,600, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The ULI survey revealed that 70 percent of people who say they are likely to move in the next five years expect to own their homes rather than rent, similar to the national average. However, only 24 percent of Bay Area millennials—74 percent of whom indicated that they are considering a move in the next five years—say they are very confident that they can afford to rent or own the home they want.
Nearly half of Bay Area baby boomers say they are very confident on this score, and 65 percent of the silent/war generation members express such confidence. Both of those older groups include many people who locked in their housing expenditures by purchasing years ago at lower prices. There is considerable risk, especially given their high mobility and expectations, that younger residents will leave the Bay Area in search of more reasonable housing prices and homeownership opportunities elsewhere, the report notes.
In one of the nation’s most traffic-congested metro areas, even older, more-affluent residents crave alternatives to getting around by automobile. The latest Urban Mobility Scorecard, released by data technology firm INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, showed that two of the top five most “gridlock-plagued” cities in the United States are in the Bay Area. San Francisco ranked third, nationally, with 78 hours wasted per rush-hour commuter per year, and San Jose came in fifth, at 67 hours wasted. (Washington, D.C., had the worst traffic, wasting 82 hours per year.) It may be little surprise, then, that the ULI survey reveals that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Bay Area residents say they would like to live where they do not need to use a car very often, compared with 52 percent of all U.S. residents.
About half of all Bay area residents, and 56 percent of those living in the central five-county area around San Francisco, say convenient public transportation would be a high priority when they consider a move. In particular, 61 percent of residents who have incomes below $25,000 rank public transportation as a top priority. But it is notable that the desire for access to high-quality public transportation is ranked highly by 45 percent of those earning more than $75,000 per year, 45 percent of suburban dwellers, and 51 percent of those living in rural areas or small towns.
The full report, which includes survey results pertaining to access to healthy food and green spaces, will be available at www.uli.org after it is released at the ULI Fall Meeting in San Francisco in October.