I have read about rising rents in Alameda, and I know it has affected lots of folks, people I know, people who still work here but cannot live here. People who are gone and cannot tell their story. The past couple of years here have been quite a ride on the gentrification roller coaster.
I don't know much about rent control, or subsidies, or any external manipulation directly. I have been a renter for 35 years in several American cities and have always looked for and found reasonable value while understanding that rent increases do come along. What has changed in Alameda is the pace: much faster than normal.
In the past, a young person or couple could plan on their incomes rising with normal inflation. A single person with a decent job could afford to live independently if he or she wanted to.
Our current situation in Alameda requires a person to make a minimum of $54,000 to rent a rundown studio of the sort I've not lived in since I was 17 and broke -- if you can find one. Given that the median income of a male in Alameda is $49,000 and a female $40,000, that doesn't work out very well unless you have at least a dual income.
Two years ago, I had a 5 percent rent increase and was not surprised. My building was sold recently and the next increase was 35 percent. My neighbor in the same building with practically the same unit got hit with 55 percent.
Generally speaking, housing is considered to be a person's largest single expense followed by transportation and food. I don't know too many people who can handle a 20 percent to 50 percent increase overnight. Yet this is now common. Given that the cost of living increase and the inflation rate in the United States for 2013 were both 1.5 percent, this is ridiculously out of proportion.
An equal issue is security. If these high rent raises are indeed the new norm, (and demand would suggest so) we can look forward to a forced move every 12 months, the length of a standard lease. This is no way to live. Without the ability to plan on being in any given place for more than a few months, I might as well be a nomad. In fact, I feel like one now. This is a quality-of-life issue.
What has been for the last seven years a wonderful, relaxing and welcoming city has become an uncomfortable shoe. I fear I will have to follow in the footsteps of my missing friends and neighbors, leaving the Island for a more hospitable area, just to find a place to call home.
My building wasn't for sale -- until the "great offer" came along and I joined the displaced of Alameda Island. You'd be surprised at how quickly things change when there are no rules and a Wild West mentality comes to town. You may have lived in your home for a decade with the perfect landlord, (my landlord was perfect by the way) -- and in 90 days, your whole world can change. Mine did. Maybe it is time to consider some reasonable measures.
Alameda promotes itself as a family-friendly, Mayberry-like city with all the benefits of proximity to San Francisco. It was, and it included a lot of diversity in ethnicity, income, age and political views. I think the brochure needs to change. People are leaving.
Gale McLane is an Alameda resident.