Ramon Rios-Parada has lived in Hayward his whole life and can see that things are slowly changing.
When the time came for the 32-year-old social worker at La Familia Neighborhood Resource Center to look for his own place to rent, he heard stories from friends about rents in Hayward being high. What he found were studio and one-bedroom apartment rents looming around $1,200 a month and homeowners charging around $950 a month to rent individual rooms.
“When I started looking for a place to live two years ago, I wasn’t focused on Hayward; I was just focused on where would be the cheapest, so I was looking at Oakland Berkeley and other areas,” Rios-Parada said in a phone interview.
The Hayward High and San Francisco State University graduate eventually caught a break when two homeowners offered to rent a room in their house near the Impact Academy Arts & Tech charter school for a little more than $800 a month.
“I am looking for a new place, but everything is very expensive and it’s more than I’m paying now. I can’t even afford a one-bedroom apartment just for myself, so I’m limited in the marketplace to sharing another room with other people I wouldn’t know, and I’d have to develop a relationship with,” he said.
“I would prefer to stay in Hayward at this moment in time, and obviously, my priority is finding a room that’s affordable in Hayward, but I can’t control the market, so I’d have to go where the market takes me,” he said.
Now faced with the prospect of possibly moving once again, Rios-Parada is bracing for the worst.
“I’m just barely getting by with the rent that I’m paying now even though it’s cheap compared to the rest of the Bay Area,” Rios-Parada said.
The Hayward native is not alone.
He was one of nearly 30 renters, tenants, property managers, homeowners and housing advocates who attended a Jan. 10 public meeting at La Familia Neighborhood Resource Center on Fuller Avenue, marking what city administrators say is a comprehensive effort over the next few months to listen and identify potential policy changes. The meeting was reserved for tenants and renters to share their concerns, while a second one, set aside for property managers and homeowners, was held Wednesday at Hayward City Hall.
“We all know, at this point, that there’s a housing crisis, and it’s impacting everyone in the Bay Area at different levels,” Hayward community services manager Dana Bailey said at the Jan. 10 meeting.
State and U.S. Census Bureau statistics suggest that a number of variables are merging to create the perfect storm. Hayward is growing steadily from 140,030 residents in 2000 to 158,985 last year, a 15 percent increase over 16 years. Almost half of housing in the city, or 22,874 apartments, condos and homes, are rental units, and at least 57.3 percent of Hayward renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data.
The city, for its part, can regulate and inspect rental units, respond to reports of unsafe living conditions, place requirements on new developments to fund affordable housing and provide money for community organizations and service providers to work on housing issues.
Of the estimated 47 apartments complexes that nonprofit housing provider Eden Housing manages or owns in Alameda County, only three have open waiting lists: the 150-unit Josephine Lum Lodge for seniors in Hayward, the 66-unit Villa Springs multi-family complex in Hayward, and the 54-unit Wicklow Square complex for seniors in Dublin.
The number of open waiting lists for housing is a little better on Contra Costa County, where Eden Housing owns or manages 13 apartment complexes, including the 45-unit Belle Terre complex for seniors in Lafayette; the 80-unit Brentwood Senior Commons complex in Brentwood; the 32-unit Emerson Arms multi-family complex in Martinez; the 67-unit Monteverde Senior housing complex in Orinda; and the 75-unit Riverhouse apartment complex in Martinez.
Even if Rios-Parada were to inherit his family’s home near downtown Hayward, he worries that he would have to rent it out and not generate much profit from it to pay property taxes.
“I would like to own my own apartment, but I’m still living from paycheck to paycheck,” Rios-Parada said.
“We’re told that if we get an education, and I have two degrees, that you’re supposed to be able to afford an apartment, but that’s just not the case. Forget about owning a home; I don’t see people in my generation owning a home, honestly,” he said.