With rents jumping over 50 percent in the last four years, there are many horror stories about evictions across Silicon Valley — most recently, the story of a 97-year old woman who has lived in the same rental for 66 years.
Marie Hatch, 97, has been living in modest wood-shingled cottage in the exclusive neighborhood of Burlingame since 1950, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. But Marie and her 85-year old roommate Georgia Rothrock just received a notice that gives them until April 12 to move out of their $900-per-month rental or be evicted by deputy sheriffs.
Marie outlived her landlord and friend, Vivian Kruse, who verbally promised her that she could live in the cottage until she died. Marie also outlived Vivian’s daughter and granddaughter, who were willing to honor the promise. She even outlived her own daughter.
Marie and Georgia both live off of Social Security, which in America averages just $960 per month. But unfortunately for the two seniors, the current average monthly rent for San Mateo County is $2,648 for a two-bedroom unit, according to a recent study by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which found rents increased by 51 percent over the past four years.
Federal guidelines state that rent is unaffordable when it exceeds 30 percent of a household’s income, which means a local household must earn $105,120 to afford the average rental unit in Silicon Valley. With an income of approximately $23,040, the two seniors are about $82,080 a year short.
The plight of Marie and Georgia is not unique. A Joint Venture Silicon Valley Institute analysis, entitled “Poverty in the Bay Area,” determined that about 11.3 percent of local residents are living at or below the poverty level. Despite a low unemployment rate, which fell to 5.2 percent in February, 829,547 live below the poverty line in the San Francisco Bay Area, according lead economist Jon Haveman.
Silicon Valley’s double-digit poverty rates are in stark contrast to the fact that the area was the nation’s average wage leader last year, at $93,500, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Yet even that statistic is misleading, because income in the “Valley” is concentrated at the top. About 45.4 percent of households earn $100,000 or more; 11.9 percent are in the $75,000 to $99,999 range; 13.3 percent are in the $50,000 to $74,999 category; 15.4 percent earn in the $25,000 to $49,999 range, and 13.9 percent struggle below $25,000.
Marie and Georgia’s current landlord, David Kantz, took over managing the property when his wife was killed in 2006. The Kantzes were in the process of getting a divorce when David’s 55-year old wife, Pamela Kantz, was killed by her boyfriend, Tony McClung. Despite authorities discovering a decomposing body in a plastic bag, McClung was allowed to cut a plea bargain to in 2010 to serve an 11-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter.
With Pamela Kantz’s estate now being administered by David, he acknowledges the verbal commitment of his wife to let Marie stay in the cottage. But since nothing was ever written down, he intends to sell the cottage, which is appraised at $1.2 million, for his two sons, who are the estate’s beneficiaries.
Marie Hatch told the Chronicle, “They’re trying to take away everything from me here.” Tearfully she added, “I have a lot of tears, a lot of happiness, a lot of memories in this house. It is my home. Where can I go?”