A fact-based overview of the state of housing in our county.

Per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), families who pay more than thirty percent of their income for housing are considered “cost burdened”.

Further, a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local market-rate rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere nationwide.

In any discussion about affordable housing in Marin it's important to know the facts:

  • Marin County’s average apartment rent is currently $2,656 per month and the median household income in the county is $91,500 (per U.S. Census Bureau 2014 data). 
  • Based on HUD’s housing affordability standards, a household would need to earn $8,853 per month or $106,240 per year to afford the average rental in Marin, and approximately $200,000 per year ($16,700/month) to afford the average purchase price of a single-family home. 
  • Further analysis of U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that of the 42% of Marin County households that earn less than $75,000/year, three in four are allotting more than 30% of their income to housing. 
  • Of the 20% of Marin households that earn less than $35,000/year, 85% spend more than 30% of their income on housing. 
  • The County’s housing cost burden on lower income households is heaviest, and the problem is worsening as housing cost increases continue to outpace household income gains: in 2014, average rents in the county increased by 10.3% while average income grew by only 1.5%.

Like any limited commodity, the cost of housing in Marin is a function of supply and demand. The number of housing units in the county increased by 1,139 from 2010 to 2014 (110,530 to 111,669) while the population grew by 8,201 during the same time period. The relatively slow growth in the county’s housing stock is reflective of a state-wide trend: last month McKinsey Global Institute (“MGI”), affiliated with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, released a paper entitled “A Tool Kit to Close California’s Housing Gap: 3.5 Million Homes by 2025”. Per MGI, from 2009 to 2014, California added 544,000 families but only 467,000 net housing units; California ranks 49th among the 50 states for housing units per capita.

Faced with the increasing lack of affordability of Marin housing for a growing percentage of its population, it is important to preserve and grow the county’s existing dedicated affordable housing stock. According to Marin County’s Community Development Agency, 96% of the county’s housing stock is market rate with only 3% dedicated to low income households and 1% to moderate incomes. 


Hurdles for new construction remain high, so the limited number of new affordable units being built (like Homeward Bound’s recently completed 14-unit Oma Village in Novato) are being supplemented in other ways:

  • Purchasing market rate housing and converting it to dedicated affordable housing
  • Providing incentives to developers to add affordable units to market rate projects
  • Lowering hurdles for the creation of junior second unit to existing single family homes that would add to the overall number of available affordably-priced living units.

And for those most in need, the housing problem is acute: there are currently 1,300 homeless persons in Marin County, and another 5,200 are at risk of pending homelessness. MCF is actively working with homeless service providers, the County, the Housing Authority and other like-minded partners in pursuing all viable solutions to the growing affordable housing problem.

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MCF staff volunteer for Habitat for Humanity

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MCF staff volunteer for Habitat for Humanity

Alan Burr

Alan Burr joined MCF in early 2016 and is Director for Housing & Community Lending. Prior to MCF he was a Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer at the Bank of Marin.