Editorials ~ Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Sun


Affordable housing is a major health issue, too

Posted on February 1, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The lack of affordable and missing-middle housing in Sonoma Valley is hurting your health and your security. In fact, it’s worse than you thought. Every neighborhood, no matter how affluent, no matter how NIMBY, is affected.

Take it from Sonoma Valley Hospital, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, and Sonoma Valley’s fire and police departments – your emergency responders. Through Sonoma Valley Collaborative, they have joined together in a call for greater affordability in local housing, the most pressing issue for their ability to serve Sonoma Valley residents.

First responders and healthcare workers are closely tied to Sonoma Valley’s communities. They are responsible for your safety – through natural disasters, a global pandemic, emergencies, and the long-term pursuit of health and safety. 

And yet, fewer and fewer of them can afford to live in Sonoma Valley.

Most of our essential workers are commuting to Sonoma Valley to perform jobs where lives may be at stake. Each year, the percentage of firefighters, police, and health care workers – from lab techs to surgeons – who commute to work from outside Sonoma Valley is increasing. Unfortunately, the people who earn the least drive the farthest.

Right now, close to 50% of Sonoma Valley Community Health Center staff commute from eight other counties besides Sonoma County, and would have difficulty getting to Sonoma Valley during a disaster. At Sonoma Valley Hospital, the proportion of staff living in Sonoma Valley is at 32% – a drop of 20% in just four years.

At the Sonoma Valley Fire District, 68% of firefighters commute, and that number has been on the rise for years. Sonoma Valley Fire District firefighters who commute drive an average of 63 minutes to reach Sonoma Valley. 

The agencies have a hard time hiring and retaining staff in all positions because Sonoma Valley lacks housing that is affordable for the “missing middle” – people who don’t earn enough to buy homes or rent here, but make too much to qualify for subsidized low-income housing. These jobs are made harder by housing insecurity, which triggers many of the mental and physical health issues that show up in their work.

Their work is essential, but the community they serve quite literally has no place for them. They are being displaced from Sonoma Valley, making it more difficult to establish trust with the communities they serve.

All those “thanks for your service” comments are nice, but don’t pay the rent. Or fill the tank for the drive from Fairfield..

The Collaborative partners want Sonoma Valley residents to understand that Sonoma Valley needs more dense, affordable, and missing-middle housing. Bottom line, you will be safer when Sonoma Valley is more of a “live-here, work-here” community. 

Ask decision-makers at the city of Sonoma and county of Sonoma to make sure that the Housing Elements, now being updated, actively create new affordable homes for essential workers, protect renters, and preserve existing affordable housing units.

With special thanks to Sonoma Valley Collaborative

2 thoughts on “Affordable housing is a major health issue, too

  1. We once offered 18 granny unity for such persons about 2004 and were soundly rejected on our 1st street west development [next to the lofts]. we build single family homes instead, money into the bank for us. BtW those ‘affordable” units in our project? are all 2nd homes for city dwellers …. NO ENFORCEMENTS.

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