A striking 40 percent of Bay Area residents are looking to leave the region in the next few years, driven out by suffocating gridlock, sky-high housing prices and the exorbitant cost of living, according to a new poll from the Bay Area Council.
That number represents a jump from last year, when only 34 percent of respondents said they were looking to leave.
Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman said the increasing unhappiness of residents should function as a sign to policymakers and elected leaders that something must be done.
“It could suggest that the Bay Area economic leadership may fall behind it if we don’t act on these problems,” Wunderman said.
“In order to effect meaningful change, we have to signal to the people who live here as well as people who are looking to the region that we’re ready to take on the challenges of making the Bay Area a place that feels like the future.”
Two of the factors ranked as some of the most serious for the region by respondents are unlikely to surprise anyone: the twin issues of cost of living and housing prices.
The desire to leave the Bay Area was tied to how much of a person’s income went towards housing costs. Among respondents spending 60 percent or more of their income on housing, more than half are planning an escape. Other factors identified by survey respondents as serious include traffic, poverty and income inequality.
The 2017 Bay Area Council Poll – an annual study commissioned by the business advocacy group – surveyed more than 1,000 residents about the state of the Bay Area and was conducted by Oakland-based market research company EMC research. Respondents were asked about a variety of issues affecting the region including transportation, housing, cost of living, education, jobs and economic growth.
One insight the survey revealed was a generational gap in residents looking to depart for cheaper destinations. According to the survey, 46 percent of millennials saying they are looking to leave, leading all age groups. To Wunderman, that data doesn’t bode well for future economic growth, especially with big-picture economic indicators like job growth slowing.
“I would say the thinking amongst younger folks that the Bay Area doesn’t hold their future is really settling in and that’s concerning,” Wunderman said.
Part of that has to do with the increasing expense and impracticality of having a family in the region. A recent report from San Francisco’s Planning Department found that only 18 percent of households in the city have children, less than half the proportion with kids in the 1980s.