2020-01-22 — newrepublic.com
By most official measures, California's economy is humming. Its unemployment rate, at 3.9 percent, is at a record low. It is home to some of the world's most valuable companies: Google, Apple, Facebook. As The New York Times noted in December, "Its median household income has grown about 17 percent since 2011, compared with about 10 percent nationally, adjusted for inflation."
But the state's affluence is spread unevenly, resulting in an increasingly bifurcated economy that privileges the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. This is particularly apparent in cities like San Francisco and San Diego, where the gig economy is most prevalent. Costs of living there are higher than elsewhere in the country, exacerbated by a housing market that, thanks to an influx of cash from the tech sector, has become prohibitively expensive for many people (and has also helped drive a spike in homelessness).
In October, San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar released the inaugural "Jobs-Housing Fit Report," which analyzed job creation in the city from 2010 to 2018 and sought to establish whether there was enough affordable housing to lodge those new workers. Unsurprisingly, the report found that there was plenty of housing for high earners (defined as those making 120 percent or more of the area median income) but less for low- and middle-income earners, with a gap of about 15,000 units between what the city would need to build to accommodate them all and what is actually in the pipeline.
But even basic employment protections won't be enough to offset the fallout from the tech economy. The government will have to step in to smooth out disruptions in the housing market (as Warren and Sanders have proposed to do). The government will have to ensure that public transit is widely available and efficient (as the Green New Deal aims to do). Because for all its promises of changing the world for the better, Silicon Valley has other priorities.
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