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Golis: Act now! This house can be yours for a mere $39 million

We live in a country where you can pay $150,000 for a car, $20,000 for a watch, $2,000 for a hotel room, $2,000 for a pair of sneakers and $600 for a T-shirt.|

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

If you read the Wall Street Journal’s real estate report, you know there’s not much mention of tract homes for teachers in Windsor or duplexes for farmworkers in Geyserville

The mansion section last week showcased a house built for the late comedian Bob Hope in the Toluca Lake section of Los Angeles. It can be yours for a mere $29 million.

Pete Golis
Pete Golis

Looking for something closer to home? Then how about paying $39 million for the Sea Cliff mansion in San Francisco once owned by actor Sharon Stone? It comes with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Journal may not help you and me find a place to live. But it doesn’t mind playing to the popular fixation with luxury and celebrity, as if to say: Don’t you wish you could afford this house?

If you think the chasm between the wealthy and everyone else is growing wider, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Public Policy Institute of California found that 69% of Californians believe it, too.

In all the talk about people leaving California, what sometimes gets lost is this: The people who can afford to live here keep coming. And why not? The climate, the innovative companies, the buzz, the beaches … it’s all good.

But many working people are moving away because the cost of housing and most everything else is leaving them without enough money to pay for life’s essentials — housing, food, health care, gasoline. More than 1 in 5 Californians say they worry every day about having enough income to pay for life’s necessities, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey.

Wonder why businesses struggle to find the employees they need? Well, wonder no more.

The CEO of a local restaurant chain last week listed housing prices and a declining workforce among the reasons the company was closing two Mary’s Pizza Shacks. Staff Writer Sarah Doyle reported that 45 local restaurants have closed since the pandemic began.

“(Rising housing costs) can change the way our communities work, and who works here,” Sonoma State University economist Robert Eyler told Staff Writer Ethan Varian.

We live in a country where you can pay $150,000 for a car, $20,000 for a watch, $2,000 a night for a hotel room, $2,000 for a pair of sneakers and $600 for a T-shirt. A few wealthy folks even pay unimaginable sums to own their own rocket ships.

Meanwhile, more people are lining up at food banks, and millions more Americans are scrambling to find the money to buy shoes for their kids, put food on the table and afford shelter for themselves and their families.

For them, the American dream is disappearing, and they’re damned if they know what to do about it. Some hear the promise of Make America Great Again, and it sounds pretty good to them.

To buy a median-priced house in Sonoma County, all you need is $870,500. Put down 10% and take out a 30-year loan at 5.25%, and your annual payments will total a figure north of $51,000, not counting taxes or fire and mortgage insurance.

Since it’s recommended you not spend more than 30% of your income on housing, that means you should be making more than $170,000 a year to buy a median-priced home in Sonoma County.

So much for the American dream. (In real life, 4 in 10 Californians — renters and homeowners — spend more than the recommended 30% of income on housing, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.)

One result of the high cost of buying a home is that more people are becoming renters, though housing costs for them are no less burdensome.

The median rental for an apartment in Sonoma County is $1,964 per month, or $23,568 a year. If you can find a job that pays $20 an hour for 40 hours a week, you’ll only be spending 57% of your income on housing — which explains why so many are sharing homes and apartments.

In Sonoma County, rents have risen 16% and home prices by 34% since March 2020.

While most political leaders slept, the American middle class was shrinking.

Manufacturing and other well-compensated jobs went elsewhere, and workers who expected to own a home and to enjoy the benefits associated with middle-class livelihoods were left to survive as best they could.

Technology and globalization were combining to turn the world upside-down, but it was inconvenient for political leaders to acknowledge the changes. If they admitted that the economy was going in the wrong direction, they would be obliged to do something about it. Not wanting to be the bearers of the bad news, they served up distractions.

Eventually, the frustrations Americans experienced would be manifested in support for politicians at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. With or without solutions, they at least spoke to people’s disillusionment, and for some, that was good enough.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.

You can send letters to the editor to letters@pressdemocrat.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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