In their recent letter on the Palo Alto Housing Element, HCD asked for further information on how the city was addressing the requirement to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). I am not an expert on this area and look forward to the city staff and the Weekly to examine what all needs to be done.
I do know one piece and that is to make sure that housing for low-income residents is spread broadly and fairly throughout the city and not concentrated in one or two areas. As a downtown resident I welcome more housing for low-income residents in my neighborhood and in north Palo Alto.
I know that Palo Alto as for most cities had covenants in the past and even after World War II hat prevented homes from being sold to some racial and religious groups. Fortunately, such blatant discrimination has been illegal for a long time.
I have disagreed with many housing decisions from council over the past decade but I want to make clear that I do NOT think those decisions were motivated or that the current council has any racially based motivation in their housing decisions.
Now to the data I collected from the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey 5-year data on poverty.
First, here is Palo Alto’s population in 2020 by major racial and ethnic group.
Total 68, 572 + 4,169 from 2010
White Non-Hispanic 33.243 48.5% of the total and -5,809 from 2010
Black Not Hispanic 1,170 1.7% +39 from 2010
Asian Not Hispanic 24,246 35.4% +6,842 from 2010
Hispanic 5,091 7.4% +1,117 from 2010
Most of the others identify themselves as two or more races that could include Hispanic or Black residents
The Black share of residents in Palo Alto is very low but similar to that in MV (1.4%), RC (1.6%), SC County (2.1%) and SM County (1.9%)
Where PA does have a large disparity is in its share of Hispanic residents
Our share (7.4%) compares to SC and SM County 25.2% and 25.0%, MV 17.2% and RC 35.7% as well as EPA 66.5%.
The Bay Area Black resident concentrations follow where WW II military installations were located and are in Oakland 20.8% Black and Solano County 13.2% though both areas lost Black population since 2010. The Black resident share of Bay Area population in 2020 was 5.6%.
I found one interesting finding that shows the displacement caused by market-rate housing shortages. This is caused as some higher income residents bid up the rents on formerly more affordable rentals and force low-income families to move further away to find housing they could better afford.
The example that caught my attention was in Antioch where the Black population increased by 6,226 between 2010 and 2020 that I am thinking is from residents formerly in Oakland and San Francisco who got priced out.
I wanted next to look at poverty data for Palo Alto.
I looked up the latest 5-year poverty estimates for PA as the single year data omit information for Black and Hispanic residents I think as the sample size is too small.
So here is the five-year data including years before and during the pandemic.
Total residents below the federal poverty level--3,732 for a 5.5% poverty rate
Black residents in poverty were 74 for a 5.3% rate
White Non-Hispanic 1,353 residents for a 3.8% rate
Asian residents 1,572 for a 7.0% rate
Hispanic residents 565 for a 15.0% rate
I think finding concentrated racial areas of poverty is a tough case in PA (compared to, for example, Belle Haven, north Fair Oaks or East Palo Alto but, again, I am not an expert on the HCD criteria and look forward to analysis by the staff and the Weekly.
Two final points
1) I think we all wish there were more Black and Hispanic residents and
2) this poverty data is NOT adjusted for the cost of housing, which would make all rates almost double though I do not think it would change Palo Alto’s relative position.