Monday, January 23, 2006

No low incomes in Placer County

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that prosperous Placer County has the lowest poverty rate of any other California County. That’s good news for all the folks who live and work in Placer County but as expected not everyone is happy about the news.
Advocates for the poor say low-income people can’t afford to live in high priced Placer County. Herb Whitaker, managing attorney for the Mother Lode regional office of Legal Services of Northern California, said “Depending on whom you ask, a low poverty rate can mean one of two things: Either you’re helping people in your county get out of poverty, or you’re helping people in poverty get out of your county.” Whitaker thinks there should be more poor living in the county and has a proven track record of litigation against counties and cities to enforce his beliefs.
According to the data from the Census Bureau only 5.9 percent of Placer County residents have an income below $18,400. Typically 13.8 percent of California residents have incomes below $20,000 considered by many a poverty level. Housing advocates believe that Placer needs more poverty level people living in the county. I am not sure I follow their reasoning.
There are a lot of places where I can’t afford to live. A few are even in Placer County. No one is purposely locking out low-income wage earners from living in Placer. Most find more affordable housing on the other side of the 80 highway in Sacramento so what’s wrong with that? Do affordable housing advocates believe that Placer County should import low-income families to bring up their percentages of working poor?
Robert Mogull, a professor of business statistics at Sac State said the county’s “extraordinary high white population, its small black and Latino population, and its relatively small family size, and its small population of people who speak a language other than English all correlates heavily with a low poverty rate.
Economic factors not social drive all purchases including housing. Placer County is among the top 5 in the state for highest average family income. Advocates for subsidized housing won’t be satisfied until a larger percentage of low-income families live in the county; providing a larger constituency for them to represent.


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