The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Low Wages and High Housing Costs = Homeless in California

Jul 23, 2023

High housing costs and low wages were identified as the causes of homelessness when University of California San Francisco (UCSF) interviewed more than 3,200 homeless people.

This study, commissioned by the State of California, shows that one out of three California residents are low-income working-class people. This is a very high poverty rate. Businesses cause this stunning poverty by paying their workers miserable wages. Six months before becoming homeless, the Californians surveyed made a median income of just $960 monthly, which, according to Zillow, would pay only one-third of the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in California!

One survey participant, Carlos, explained how someone can gradually descend into homelessness. He had to stop working after falling off a ladder and injuring his spine. The State of California decided Carlos was not eligible for workers’ compensation because his employer paid him in cash. Because he could no longer afford his rent, he had to move out of his apartment and rent a room in a new place. Carlos could not stay in this room very long due to conflicts with his roommates. After a brief stay with family, he was reduced to living in his truck until the city towed his vehicle due to unpaid parking tickets. Now, he lives in an encampment in a park.

California has spent an incredible amount of money, $17.5 billion, supposedly to combat homelessness in just four years, from 2018 to 2022. With this spending, the state could have just paid the rent for every unhoused person in California for those four years. Instead, the State of California officials channeled this money to their benefactors in the construction business. California paid such companies more than $1 million for building only one apartment per building. By comparison, the average price of one whole house is more like $750,000. For the real estate companies involved, selling homeless units to the state is more profitable than selling houses to people.

There are 170,000 unhoused people in California. This is 30% of the United States homeless population and 50% of the unsheltered population. Having or suddenly losing a low-income job and trying to pay skyrocketing rents become the primary reasons Californians end up homeless.