Bay Area News Group Silicon Valley tech workers line up for their shuttle bus commute. Choked by traffic and overwhelmed by skyrocketing housing costs, 40 percent of Bay Area residents hunger to flee the region in the next few years, according to a new poll that sketches a forbidding outlook for the area.
SAN JOSE — Choked by traffic and overwhelmed by skyrocketing housing costs, a greater percentage of Bay Area residents than a year ago now say they yearn to flee the region.
In a new Bay Area Council poll released Thursday, 40 percent of the region’s residents said they want to move away in the new few years, a marked increase from the 33 percent who said in 2016 they wanted to leave.
Even worse, the new survey found that young adults are more inclined to leave: 46 percent of millennials want to lead the charge out of the Bay Area in the next few years.
“It turns out that we were wrong about millennial preferences, the stories were wrong that millennials wanted to live in a hyper-urban environment and that it would be OK to raise families in a condo,” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council’s Economic Institute. “Millennials are putting off family formation, but when they have a family, they want what their parents had: a house on a nice lot pretty close to work.”
The departure of millennial professionals to other regions of the country could harm the Bay Area’s economy, the council warned.
“Losing our youth is a very bad economic and social strategy,” said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored, public policy advocacy organization.
The council polled 1,000 residents across nine Bay Area counties in late January for its annual survey. Those counties included Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano.
Of the residents surveyed, 55 percent said they worried about the general cost of living in the Bay Area while 41 percent picked traffic as a big concern and 39 percent chose housing.
When asked to pick the single biggest problem, 16 percent chose the cost of housing and rent as the No. 1 problem facing the Bay Area, down from 22 percent last year. Thirteen percent picked traffic, also down from 17 percent in the prior poll.
Five percent chose the administration of President Donald Trump as the worst problem facing the Bay Area. The Bay Area Council included that category on its list of potential top problems. Last year, however, the administration of then-President Barack Obama was not included on the council poll’s list of potential top concerns.
With higher-paying technology jobs propping up housing costs, some community leaders worry the region won’t be able to attract a diverse workforce.
“The Bay Area is becoming like New York,” said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “People won’t bother moving here unless they are really high earners.”
While many millennials seem particularly displeased by life in the Bay Area, economists with the Bay Area Council see anecdotal evidence that young people want to do something about the region’s woes.
The result could be a kind of “Yes In My Backyard” movement that could ward off the influence of the “Not In My Backyard” anti-growth mentality that has dominated the Bay Area’s political scene for decades, Weinberg said.
Fixing the housing and traffic problems could be essential to retaining young, talented tech workers or millennial employees in any industry, economists said.
“If you can’t attract millennials, you can’t compete as a region,” Hancock said. “But the market is sending powerful signals about the Bay Area. We are creating an affluent community with all kinds of wonderful amenities. This will be an ideal setting for some, but not all.”
Still, some cities have taken big steps forward in addressing their housing shortages. Chief among those, Hancock said, are San Jose, Oakland, Redwood City and Mountain View.
“We’ve got to do something, because more and more, you hear that it’s too expensive, too tough to live here,” Hancock said, “and that the most compassionate thing we can do for a young person is buy them a one-way bus ticket out of town to a place that is less expensive.”