Skyrocketing rents have put an increasing number of people on the move, often with nowhere to land.
Sonoma County’s housing squeeze has left a lot of people priced out of their homes or evicted. For every affordable — and not so affordable — house, apartment or granny unit that comes on the market there’s often a long line of desperate applicants. The county’s average apartment rents for $1,792 a month, a jump of 48 percent in five years. The average two-bedroom, two-bath unit is $2,080, nearly 50 percent more than five years ago. Even people who are working full time may not meet the minimum income requirements.
Those who do manage to score a place may find themselves in tighter quarters or feeling like displaced persons forced to leave their communities for cheaper rent elsewhere.
For everyone in line there is a story and complicating factors, from proximity to work to poor credit to pets.
Here are a few stories from the front lines.
Who: Danelle Jarzynski, 27
Housing dilemma: Jarzynski and her fiancé, Litten Alley, are both sous chefs who work long hours and get standard industry pay, which is relatively low. For several years, they had been renting a 610-square-foot, one-bedroom house on North Street in Healdsburg for $1,200 a month that was within walking distance of Jarzinski’s cooking job at Scopa restaurant (Litten works at the Mayacama private club in Santa Rosa.) Their landlord put the house on the market in June, and the pair gave their 30-day notice soon afterward because they felt uncomfortable having the real estate agent showing the house, with their two dogs and cats living there. They tried to buy the home, but the price was nearly $700,000 — out of their price range.
Challenge: The couple had only a month to find an affordable home (under $2,000) to rent that had enough room for — and would accept — their four pets. “The search proved to be way harder than we thought,” Jarzinski said. “We moved into the new house on Aug. 1, the day our lease was up at the old house ... It was the last possible second.”
The couple were considering living anywhere from Santa Rosa to Guerneville and Cloverdale and were looking for something in the same price range but could not find anything for less than $1,800.
They lost the first three places they tried to rent, then heard from a neighbor about a small home for rent about 200 feet away from their Healdsburg rental. That place had so much water damage, however, that it was not ready to rent. Their hopes were dashed.
Next, they looked at a Windsor condo, but with the homeowner’s association fee tacked onto the rent, it would cost more than $2,000 a month. Then they looked at a tiny, 300-square-foot granny unit on top of a garage in Healdsburg that was renting for $1,750. “It was a funny option, but it was the only one at that point,” Jarzynski said.
One day before their lease expired, she was looking at Craigslist at midnight and found a three-bedroom house for rent in Cloverdale for $1,850 that welcomed pets. It also had front and back yards for their two dogs: a husky mix and a sheltie mix.
“I was so excited,” Danelle said. “No one says pets OK ... the landlord was super nice, and she knew someone who works at Scopa.”