Socioeconomics

Lack of affordable housing affects every demographic

our town st helena affordable housing at brenkle court in st helena

The Socioeconomics of Affordable Housing

St. Helena has been a desirable place to live and visit for decades, but we are seeing changes that could significantly alter the small-town character that makes our home special, including:

  • A significant increase in the number of houses being purchased and converted to second homes
  • More houses being marketed as short-term rentals
  • Fewer migrant and more full-time farmworker families working in our community
  • More jobs for moderate to low-wage workers in upvalley restaurants, tasting rooms and hotels as the hospitality industry became an important source of revenue
  • Increasing pressure to build hotels to increase the TOT tax revenue of St. Helena

Disturbing statistics on the state of affordable housing in St. Helena

When we first met to develop a vision and mission ten years ago, there had been no market-rate or low-income apartments and only one deed-restricted home built in St. Helena in more than 20 years.

  • However, during the same time period, St. Helena lost 48 apartments with the conversion of Grandview into a luxury hotel, which means we have 14 fewer apartments today than ten years ago. 
  • In the last ten years, Magnolia Oaks has added two deed-restricted homes and 16 low-to-moderate rate rentals units.
  • Turley Flats has added 8 low-income units.
  • The McGrath project on McCorkle includes 8 market-rate rentals. 

    However, during the same time period, St. Helena lost 48 apartments with the conversion of Grandview into a luxury hotel, which means we have 14 fewer apartments today than ten years ago. Plus, the median cost of a single-family house has risen to more than $1million.

  • It would require a purchaser to make at least $200,000/year to afford to buy this home, while the average household income is $70,000
  • 36% of residents can’t afford to rent; 70% of residents can’t afford to buy a home
  • Hunt’s Grove and Stonebridge low-income apartment complexes have 3 ½-year waiting lists

It’s not just our farmworkers who can’t afford to live here

The affordable housing problem is not specific to our farmworkers. First responders—our police and firemen and healthcare providers–can’t afford to live here. It’s seniors and those who work in our retail sector and our wineries. All of these groups contribute to the character of St. Helena, and in the case of first responders, help keep it safe.

Advocating for a more comprehensive, proactive housing strategy

Like many other issues in a small town, this housing crisis is not recognized or understood by many of our local residents. One of Our Town St. Helena’s goals is educating the community on the need for housing and the impact of our decreasing workforce housing pool.

We advocate for the development of a more comprehensive, proactive housing strategy for St. Helena. As a nonprofit organization, we need the support and engagement of all of our community to meet our goals.