The Cost of Living Quandry

Friday, May 26, 2017
Michael Ellis Langley & Sara Hollingsworth
Tracy Press

There is a spike in the price of rental properties in Tracy that is making it difficult to live here unless your job is in the Bay Area.

Late last year the city commissioned a survey of Tracy residents and when the results were reveled in March, the cost to live in town was a big concern for the roughly 1,500 people who responded. Only 40 percent of people felt good about the cost of living in Tracy and only 34 percent expressed a positive view of the amount of affordable quality housing in town.

Mary Mitracos owns 10 rental properties in town and manages 40 more for other people. Dave Konesky manages 121 rentals — 7 of which he owns. Both have managed properties for more than 20 years and see an unprecedented spike in the rental market — driven by Bay Area transplants.

“It’s simply supply and demand as far as the number of tenants looking for the number of units. It’s affordability — they’re coming over here in droves,” Konesky said.

“This first thing is that there hasn’t been enough home building — of all kinds and types — in Tracy, in San Joaquin County or in the state of California in well over 10 years. The second thing, the reason we have no housing here, is because of what’s going on in the Bay Area. Anything that we build here is going to be taken up by Bay Area people,” Mitracos agreed. “That’s the problem with affordable housing here in Tracy. We can’t build affordable housing here because everything that we already have already is affordable — for the Bay Area.”

Kimberly Rosas and her family moved to Tracy six years ago.

“My husband and I both were born and raised and have always lived in the Bay Area until we moved here,” she said. “I would say it’s probably 25% cheaper for a lot of things, but definitely the rent is at least almost half as much. And that was a big reason as well that we moved out here.”

Konesky added some context to the rental market in the East Bay, detailing two homes he manages.

“Danville — tract house, nice neighborhood — $4,800 a month for four bedrooms. Then a condo in Dublin — $3,350 a month — for a condo,” he said. “Those are some pretty ratcheted numbers.”

That is if they are ever available for rent.

“One week. Moved in. It was rented three days before that and they’re chomping at the bit to get in,” he said emphatically.

Both he and Mitracos see that kind of pressure here.

“I’ve been running a waiting list for well over two years now,” Mitracos said.

“Two years ago a typical home would have rented for $1,500, now we’re looking at $1,900,” Konesky added. “It’s definitely the most I’ve ever seen in the shortest amount of time.”

Both landlords say that home building restrictions passed by voters at the turn of the century and the economic crash of a decade ago have combined to make Tracy’s housing market extremely lucrative — for owners. The addition of new apartment complexes is not providing renters with many options.

“There was nothing being built. There was not money to build those types of units. So finally it’s back. Those two (apartment complexes) — 400-500 units — I was promising people those would take the pressure off the single-family,” Konesky said. “The problem is that those are priced insane. … Certainly not for what we’re earning here. If you look at the affordability quotient, it doesn’t make sense in Tracy.”

Jessica Sanderson, who rents a home with her husband, put Tracy in perspective.

“With Livermore and Pleasanton and those cities right next door to us just over the hill — It’s beyond affordable compared to those types of places,” she said.

That’s true even when landlords raise the rent. Konesky, who estimates that 70 percent of his renters work in the Bay Area, added an average of 5 percent this year. Many newer Tracy residents, with jobs to the west, can bear the cost. People who work here may not be able to and find themselves commuting to Tracy for a lower paying job.

“I have several places with single mothers with small children who are having a hard time taking care of the rent,” Mitracos said. “About a year ago I moved one of them over to Manteca — to a smaller place. She was in a two-bedroom, two-bath duplex and I moved her to Manteca to a two-bedroom, one-bath duplex. But she’s able to make that rent.”

Mitracos just added 2-3 percent to her rents and said some of her renters go looking for a lower monthly payment and can’t find one.

“I just did a whole pile of rent increase, more than I ever have, because so many people are staying put. I didn’t get so much blowback because it could have been so much worse,” she said.

Kimberly Rosas said Tracy’s attractiveness goes beyond the cost of living.

“I think the price difference between out here and the Bay Area and what you get in terms of healthy, clean, good living and decent — just the people out here seem so much more relaxed and friendly and happier than the Bay Area,” Rosas said. “The people there just seem so stressed out and there is so much more negative things in the environment. So, I would say that’s probably our biggest thing that we enjoy about living out here is the differences in those things.”

Both Mitracos and Konesky say that if you can afford to rent in Tracy, you have to be ready to move quickly to get ahead of the flood of Bay Area transplants.

“You have to be prepared. You have to have a good credit scores. Pets are extremely hard to land and you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot. It could be gone by Saturday,” Konesky said.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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