Skyrocketing Homelessness

Congresswoman Speier believes that the Bay Area housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing her constituents today. The lack of affordable housing has led to skyrocketing homelessness, seniors trying to survive on fixed incomes, and a widening inequality gap. People are commuting up to three hours in just one direction to get to work. Families are living in garages. This is beyond unacceptable and it’s a crisis that is playing out in communities across the country as well.

Everyone in the Bay Area will agree that there is a severe homelessness problem. The housing crisis and general lack of affordability is front and center when discussing the record-breaking number of homeless people – almost 10,000 in San Francisco alone. Congresswoman Speier has urged cities to grow their affordable housing stock, build new homeless shelters, and ensure access to wraparound services. The stigma surrounding homelessness remains a problem, with many misjudging the causes of homelessness. Seventy percent of homeless San Franciscans stated that they were living in San Francisco when they lost their homes, with 55 percent living in the city for over 10 years. When asked what prevented them from securing permanent housing, 63 percent of respondents stated they could not afford rent. The second most common obstacle cited for obtaining housing was a lack of employment or income, while the number one reason preventing homeless individuals from getting a job was having no permanent address.

Lack of Affordable Housing

Congresswoman Speier is also concerned by the marginal number of households that can afford a median-priced home in the Bay Area – an abysmal 17 percent. Due to the exorbitantly high cost of living in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties, six-figure salaries are considered “low-income” for a family of four. When residents are routinely spending 50 percent or more of their monthly income on housing, it becomes a quality of life problem. In Silicon Valley, the growth in jobs and wages has severely outpaced our housing stock. Congresswoman Speier believes that there is no one solution that will solve this crisis, but it’s irresponsible to believe that we can continue this high job growth without developing housing at a comparable rate. In terms of federal assistance, Congresswoman Speier supports expanding successful initiatives, such as the low-income tax credit and Section 8 voucher program, to alleviate this critical problem.

The solution to the housing crisis and associated quality of life issues requires local, state, and federal officials to work together. Congresswoman Speier has consistently urged local officials to use public land for workforce and senior housing. For example, the San Mateo County Community College District now operates over 100 affordable housing units for faculty and staff. Many of our hardest working members of our communities – which includes but is not limited to teachers, first responders, and nurses – are struggling to stay in the area. Congresswoman Speier understands the urgency and magnitude of the housing problem and remains committed to finding creative solutions that will help constituents struggling with the high cost of living and improve their quality of life.

Housing Resources

  • San Mateo County Affordable Rental Housing List
  • Rental Housing Helpline
  • SMC Rental Housing Programs
  • Project WeHOPE – mobile homeless services located in East Palo Alto
  • Catholic Charities – housing assistance, immigration legal & support services, and youth programming in both San Mateo and San Francisco Counties
  • San Francisco Rental Housing Programs
  • San Francisco Eviction Prevention Resources
  • San Francisco Navigation Centers – emergency shelter list
  • Second Harvest Food Bank – serves San Francisco and San Mateo Counties

Child Care Access and Affordability

The high cost of living exacerbates other problems in our communities, including child care costs. Since the 1970s, the per-child spending on child care has risen by a staggering 2,000 percent. In San Francisco County, child care is the second highest expense after rent and at 13 percent, San Francisco now has the lowest youth population of any major city. Even those who can afford to pay the average $1,900 per month in cost are often put on months-long waitlists. But quality child care is not only about finding a safe place for children while their parents work, it’s also about child development. Research has shown that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to developing their linguistic and cognitive skills. The Council of Economic Advisers reports that every $1 spent on early-childhood education results in $8.60 of social benefits for the child’s community.

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care hits low-income families the hardest. When licensed care is unattainable, parents turn to “license-exempt” care, such as friends or neighbors who are less likely to have child development experience. Approximately 95 percent of children who are cared for by license-exempt providers are children of color and 75 percent of these caregivers are in San Francisco’s highest-poverty neighborhoods. In order to afford our children every opportunity to succeed and to address the growing inequality in our communities, investing in child care and early education is a must. Congresswoman Speier is a proud cosponsor of H.R. 1364, the Child Care for Working Families Act to double the number of children eligible for child care assistance and increase Head Start and pre-school funding. Speier is also supportive of H.R. 1560, the American Family Act, to expand the Child Tax Credit, create a new Young Child Tax Credit for children under six, and make both credits fully refundable.

Food Security

Food security is another challenge facing our community. Students are particularly impacted by the soaring costs of higher education and many cannot afford basic needs like food and housing. In a 2018 survey of community college students throughout California, nearly half reported experiencing hunger in the past year. At City College of San Francisco (CCSF), 41 percent of students reported experiencing moderate food insecurity and 21 percent reported facing extreme food insecurity. Congresswoman Speier has been a longtime supporter of federal nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), but believes that these initiatives do not go far enough to address food insecurity. Therefore, Congresswoman Speier supports increasing funding for federal nutritional assistance and in fighting the stigma associated with public benefit programs.