The Santa Cruz County Housing Crisis

The Santa Cruz County Housing Crisis

Santa Cruz County is known around the world for its culture, beauty, and laid-back attitude. Its reputation makes visiting an escape from everyday life and an attractive place to live. Unfortunately, due to it’s popularity, it is also an expensive place to live, leaving many Santa Cruz County residents in a housing crisis.

Commute to Higher Paying Jobs

housing crisis

23 percent of the Santa Cruz County workforce commutes out of the county to work, resulting in a high ratio of people to jobs and a low ratio of housing availability to population growth. Additionally, the majority of the workforce that commutes can afford a higher mortgage, allowing home prices to rise. The median home price in Santa Cruz County is now $640,000.

Low-wage Local Jobs

The National Association for Home Builders reports that Santa Cruz County has Housing Opportunity Index of 7.1, meaning that only about 7 percent of local jobs pay wages high enough to afford the median-priced home. In 2014, Santa Cruz County was listed as the Least Affordable Area for a Small Metro in the United States.

HOI Graphic

The housing crisis in Santa Cruz County is a long-standing issue that is included in the Santa Cruz County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The purpose of the CEDS is to lay the framework for engaging and encouraging solutions to the issue, which is absolutely needed for real change to occur.

Affordable Housing Development

Many factors are at play in the housing crisis, but one solution that has been around for many years is to develop affordable housing units. “Santa Cruz County has far fewer multi-unit structures than the State average (20 versus 31 percent)…”(CEDS, 21). Two factors have resulted in a low amount of affordable housing units. One is a physical issue and one is a stigma. With only 445 square miles within the County and squished between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Cruz Mountains, physical space to develop large, densely populated buildings is limited.


The other issue is community by-in. “Problems with safety and maintenance in older public housing projects have given affordable housing a stigma which means some communities are not as welcoming of these developments”(Alissa Walker, 7 Smart New Affordable Housing Projects Making Cities Stronger). This theme can be characterized by NIMBY, or Not-In-My-Backyard.

Applying innovation and a new kind of thinking to the housing crisis can produce a result that serves many purposes, provides solutions to long-standing community issues, and is well-liked and attractive to residents.

One Idea, Huge Impact

One nonprofit, Community Corporation of Santa Monica, has developed a model for providing low-wage workers with affordable housing while transforming infill properties or pushing forward on adaptive reuse. Community Corporation of Santa Monica purchases buildings and works with local architects to make them appealing to the community, sustainable, and affordable.

housing crisis

The “buildings are held in trust as a community resource, not for profit but for public benefit, and site-managed by employees hired from the resident pool”( Community Corporation of Santa Monica has over 90 projects around the city and range in size from a fourplex to a 62-unit building, and the units from studios to four-bedrooms.

Join The Inspiring Enterprise on June 9th from 6:00-7:30pm in the Cruzio Atrium Classroom for a conversation about the Housing issue in Santa Cruz County and what local government, nonprofits, and businesses are doing to solve the problem. RSVP Here.



Written by Janneke J. Lang

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