There is one thing we know for certain: Santa Clara County is an expensive place to live. For both renters and homeowners, housing costs consume a large percent of income. As a result, affordable housing has more than one meaning.

  • Income Restricted Housing: Typically, the term affordable housing has referred to housing that is affordable to lower and sometimes moderate-income households, where developments receive subsidies to keep rents low and residents need to income qualify.
  • Affordable Housing: We now have a housing affordability problem, where people who do not qualify for income restricted housing don’t make enough money to afford housing without paying a significant percentage of their income toward housing.

Generally, housing is considered affordable when you don’t spend more than 30% of your income on rent or mortgage payments. If you were to rent or buy today, where could you afford to live? Try the Mercury News’ calculator tool below.

Where can you rent or buy on your income?
Tool Created by Mercury News


According to the California Association of Realtors Traditional Housing Affordability Index, the median priced home in Santa Clara County in the second quarter of 2021, was $1,699,500. Other sources report even higher median prices. To afford the median priced home, a purchaser would need an annual income of $313,200 assuming a 20 percent downpayment on the median-priced home.

Who can afford to own a home? The Housing Affordability Index measures the percentage of households that can afford to purchase a median-priced, single-family home in California.

Homeownership Affordability
GeographyPercent of households that can afford median home priceMedian Home PriceMonthly Payment, Including Taxes & InsuranceMinimum Qualifying Income
United States50%$357,900$1,650$66,000
California Condo/ Townhome37%$585,000$2,700$108,000
California- Single Family Home23%$817,950$3,770$150,800
San Francisco Bay Area19%$1,345,000$6,200$248,000
Alameda County18%$1,300,000$5,990$239,600
Santa Clara County21%1,699,500$7,830$313,200
San Mateo County17%2,117,500$9,760$390,400
*Data from the California Association of Realtors Traditional Housing Affordability Index Second Quarter 2021

Rental Homes

The 2021 fair market rent (the 40th-percentile of typical rentals) in Santa Clara County for a two-bedroom apartment was $3,051. Note that it is difficult to pinpoint precise rental rates, as different sources use different data.

Using a 30% payment standard, a renter would need to have an income of $122,040 to afford a fair market, two-bedroom rental home (or about 80% of area median income for a family of four).

Family Needs Calculator

The Family Needs Calculator, created by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, measures the income needed to cover all monthly costs, including housing, for different types of households. You can explore the calculator tool below. Some things we learned: 

  • In Santa Clara County, a family of four with two school age children, would need an annual income of $129,195 to cover all monthly costs. 
  • A single parent with two children, preschool age and younger, would need an annual income of $145,067 to cover all monthly costs in Santa Clara County. 

Family Needs Calculator

Additional Resources:

Photo: Republic Family of Companies