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Grand Jury Report says Santa Cruz County cost of living is too expensive for essential workers

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) - Living in the beautiful coastal city of Santa Cruz comes with a price. Santa Cruz County officials say essential workers offered over $100,000 a year are rejecting jobs because the cost of living is too expensive.

According to a recent Grand Jury Report, Santa Cruz has become the second most expensive place to live in the country. The price of a home on average is $1.5 million dollars.

The county says this is impacting staffing levels at the sheriff's office and local hospitals.

"Because we are recruiting from a larger pool, often outside the county, once we do get to an offer and people start looking into the housing prices, we lose a number of candidates," said Jason Hoppin, Public Information Officer for Santa Cruz County.

Maria Chaves is living in an affordable housing unit in Santa Cruz but worries about the future of Santa Cruz.

"It's ridiculous how are you supposed to make Santa Cruz County a livable place when you don't have teachers or police," said Chavez.

The lack of affordable housing is also an issue for people trying to get an education. Cabrillo College is taking steps to give students affordable housing options to live close to campus.

"Housing has been something talked about since I've been in Santa Cruz County and we at Cabrillo College feel like we have a responsibility and opportunity to be partners and address this community ride a regional issue," said Dr. Bradley Olin, Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services.

According to the grand jury report, in order to buy the average home in the Santa Cruz area, a worker with a $50,000 down payment would have to make $400,000/year and the monthly payments would be $8,830/month.

"Our public defender's office they're recruiting people for legal lawyer jobs, those starting out at 150,000 and go up, and about one out of two of those offers don't follow through because of the housing prices locally," said Hoppin.

Hoppin says the project is in its early stages.

"We have some land that we may be looking at for housing and that may be one of the options that we look at down the road still a few years away," said Hoppin.

According to the grand jury report, 11% of workers commute from outside of the county.

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Dania Romero

Dania Romero is an reporter at KION News Channel 46.


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