Jobs / Housing Balance
To quote Home For All SMC: “Between 2010 and 2019, 102,500 new jobs were created in San Mateo County, while only 9,494 new housing units were built, a 11:1 ratio.”
We have a musical chairs problem here — we have drawn a ton of people to the area with the promise of high-paid jobs, but then instead of building new homes for them, we just let them bid up the price of the existing housing. This is driving out long-time residents who are retired, or working in more blue-collar professions.
As the workforce continues to expand over at YouTube, and as the city is considering a biotech campus at Tanforan, we need to keep our eye on the jobs/housing balance. Sure, it sounds great that the developer is promising a thousand apartments or condos by the BART station. But if the biotech campus has two, or three, or five thousand employees, it’s just going to continue aggravating the region’s housing shortage, pushing more local working-class people into super-commutes. It’s been difficult to get a clear estimate of how many jobs the biotech campus will host. The Reimagining Tanforan Land Use Fact Sheet lists the office space as around a million square feet. Average sqft per employee varies a fair bit. This article lists the range for biotech as anywhere from 125 to 410 sqft per job, which is consistent with the range of estimates I found in some other sources (including a few cities’ planning departments). Even if you go with the absolute highest end of that, you’d be talking about more than two thousand employees. At the low end, you’d have as many as eight thousand!
All by itself, this project could overwhelm the capacity of our currently projected housing growth, even assuming we actually meet our Regional Housing Needs Allocation — which in the past, we haven’t. We need to be clear about where the housing is going to get built, and that it actually is going to get built. We can’t just blithely continue approving office space without the housing to match.