Hidden In Plain Sight: The Face Of The Tri-Valley’s Working Poor

By Jeremy Thomas
Contra Costa Times.

LIVERMORE, Calif.

The cold, hard reality of skyrocketing Bay Area housing prices hit Brittany Baker when, returning to Livermore after six years in Kansas, she discovered she couldn’t afford a place of her own in the city where she grew up.

Although the 29-year-old mother of two works full time, for the past two years she and her children have lived with her mother and stepfather in a 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom home.

Baker, and many like her, represent the collateral damage of the booming, tech-fueled economy, hard-working people who have found themselves at the wrong end of the widening income gap.

Nowhere is their plight more apparent than in the bedroom communities of the Bay Area, places now more desirable because of their close commuting distance to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. One such region is the East Bay’s Tri-Valley, home both to tony towns like Danville and San Ramon and more diverse burgs like Livermore and Dublin, where the middle class once thrived but now struggles.

Baker, who makes $45,000 a year as an insurance adjuster, spends half her income on day care and has grown discouraged by the long waiting lists for affordable housing.

“It’s frustrating to be working your butt off and not have anything to show for it,” Baker said. “It’s hard being surrounded by so many people who are well-off. It makes it more frustrating to see it in your face.”

Housing costs are at unprecedented levels in the Tri-Valley as high-earners from Silicon Valley and San Francisco trickle here in search of good neighborhoods and high-achieving schools. For those whose incomes haven’t kept pace, the migration has pushed them from middle class to working poor. Many are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

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