Mortgage mania: Other Voices

I have this self-punishing habit of collecting real estate flyers while out walking my dog. I take them home to my husband and we half-laugh, half-cringe at the listed prices. We speculate about the scores of people who will undoubtedly shell out six figures over a seven-figure asking price to own one of these 800-square-foot shacks: Are they nuts?!

Once the veins in my neck stop bulging, I file the offending slips of paper in my circular filing cabinet. Those printed on sturdy card stock earn a reprieve and live among the junk mail Matt and I use to scoop up and re-home errant spiders.

No, I am not a Silicon Valley homeowner, and yes, I am bitter. But I am not alone. In fact, more than a third of Bay Area residents foresee themselves bailing the region in the next few years, according to a Bay Area Council poll released May 2. They – we – tally up the ludicrous housing prices and the abhorrent traffic congestion and question our resiliency. We question our sanity. Should we dare pay a $6,000-a-month mortgage for the coveted privilege of homeownership? Could we if we wanted to? Do those salivating bidders know something we don’t know? Yes. No. Maybe.

My husband and I are millennials. Worse yet, we are transplant millennials, among the most skittish Silicon Valley residents, according to the Bay Area Council survey. Matt’s one of those loathsome tech engineers (he even rides one of those giant, annoying commuter buses), and a generous job offer lured us here from South Florida two years ago. We were spoiled rotten by South Florida’s housing prices and moderate traffic and must consistently remind ourselves that Silicon Valley doesn’t owe us a thing. We are perpetual renters, but we are comfortable and lucky to be so.

I am schizophrenic about the local real estate business. Emotions pray for the housing market to implode so that I too may finally buy and plant roots, but rationale reminds me of losing my last newspaper job to the Great Recession’s bite into real estate advertising revenue. Like it or not, my salary is contingent on all these $2 million shack sales.

“We need to act with urgency, we need to act decisively and we need to act regionally to address the underlying problems of housing and traffic that are causing discontent and aggravation,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, in a press release.

Yet Wunderman’s press release doesn’t indicate precisely what those actions should be.

I’m just a reporter; I don’t have the answers.

I know that all of our complaining won’t magically fix the problem. It does, however, unite us millennials in a delicious shared angst. After all, it was skyrocketing rental prices that brought me closer to Alicia Castro, my colleague, friend and now-roommate.

“It’s one of my favorite things to feel depressed about,” she said when I revealed the subject of this op-ed.

Megan V. Winslow is a staff writer and photographer for the Town Crier.

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