Study calls Sonoma County one of Bay Area's least affordable areas

Ashleigh Araque, a Santa Rosa Junior College student, says she can barely afford life in Sonoma County.

Rent for her two-bedroom apartment in southwest Santa Rosa is $1,400 a month, and that plus utilities and operation of two cars eats up most of what Ashleigh, her boyfriend and their roommate make.

"It takes all three incomes to keep us in our apartment," she said, "and none of us has disposable income after the essentials are paid."

The three SRJC students can't afford a telephone, she said.

"This is a beautiful county, but it is progressively pricing out the average person," Araque said.

Sonoma County is the second least affordable county in the Bay Area, according to a nationwide study that says the county's typical household spends 55 percent of its income on housing and transportation, the two biggest bites out of a family budget.

Only Marin residents pay more, 56 percent of income, while San Franciscans — who avoid driving cars by riding Muni and BART in droves — pay just 39 percent of their income for housing and transportation, lowest in the nine-county Bay Area.

Within Sonoma County, the least affordable community is Occidental, where housing and transportation consume nearly two-thirds of a typical household's income, according to an H+T Index compiled by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago think tank.

In Temelec, a Sonoma Valley retirement community, households spend only 40 percent of their income on housing and transportation, the lowest rate in the county.

For Santa Rosa residents, the figure is 51 percent.

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