A few weeks ago a client asked me to fill a rental vacancy for her. I posted the home on Craigslist and on the local Facebook page for Anderson Valley, Boont-Swap. A bit of a verbal dust-up ensued because one person commented about what she perceived as the high cost of rentals in the Valley.
In the case of the rental, I felt it was a very fairly priced one-bedroom home, well-within the wages that most people in Anderson Valley bring in. However, the comment got me thinking and I did a little research — I do mean a little; the continuing commentary on the subject had to do with the trouble wine tasting room staff have finding rentals that they can afford, so my research focused on the wages that typical tasting room sales staff make.
First, let’s look at what rentals are going for in Anderson Valley. I have seen one-bedroom rentals that range from $750 to $1,000.00, depending on the quality of the rental (nice small home, cabin, etc.). Two and three bedrooms range from $1,200.00 to $2,000.00. I can understand that paying $2,000.00 per month for a two or three bedroom could be difficult for most single folks in the Valley; if you are spending the suggested 33% of your gross income on housing, that means you would need to be earning $6,000 per month or $72,000 per year. There are not a lot of jobs in Anderson Valley paying those kind of wages; two people together might be able to do that with two incomes. But if you are making an average of $15.50 per hour and working full time, then a third of your gross income is just over $800 per month — or within the rental amounts of most one bedroom rentals available.
What does the average tasting room salesperson make? It turns out, from a brief survey of wineries here in Anderson Valley, that those folk are making around $20 per hour, between the hourly wage (which varies) and the commission that most of them earn. Some make more, some less. Again, that puts them easily within the ability to afford most one-bedroom rentals here in the Valley. Of course, that’s an average — on slow days the commission is going to be less and and busy ones, more. That means that these folk are going to have to budget accordingly, putting money aside from those fat paychecks to help themselves out when they get a slim one (yes, that probably means opening a savings account). Yes, some of these folks don’t work full-time at any one job, but most of them are cobbling together full-time hours by working at two or three tasting rooms or other employers.
So what about those higher-priced rentals? That is probably going to mean living with roommates. Three tasting room folks each making the average $20 per hour or $3,200 per month will be able to pay that $2000 per month rent. Of course, not everyone wants a roommate, but that’s another story — if you want to live and work in Anderson Valley, you may have to make compromises. Just be thankful this isn’t San Francisco! Oh — and just for a comparison, twenty years ago I paid $650 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco — around here your $850 is likely going to get you a small home or cabin.
There are other, more pressing concerns about rentals in Anderson Valley; mainly, there aren’t very many. Given the very strong demand, it really isn’t surprising that the prices have been creeping upwards. It’s the same reason that it is harder to buy a low-priced home in Anderson Valley — supply and demand. The other competition for rentals is the vacation home market — most folks can make at least double by vacation renting a home than they can by renting it year ’round. That those folks who do rent to local inhabitants are making a sacrifice for the greater good of their community by providing housing, even if they are asking a bit more than people would like to pay, shouldn’t be forgotten.
We would all like to see more rentals here in Anderson Valley and there does need to be more affordable rentals — but not necessarily just for those tasting room folk. There are plenty of people here in the Valley making minimum wage, single mothers and single-earner households with families of three or four that they are supporting on those lower wages and so on.
I will throw in a pitch here for the Anderson Valley Housing Association — whose main goal is to provide more affordable housing for anyone meeting the guidelines for that type of housing, regardless of the type of work involved (though some is restricted because of loan requirements).