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


The median priced home in Santa Clara County, as of December 2018, was $1,250,000. Other sources report even higher median prices. According to MLS Listings, in April 2019, there were four single-family houses, 35 condominiums and townhomes, and 132 mobilehomes listed for sale with prices under $500,000.

To afford the median priced home, a purchaser would need an annual income of $271,010 assuming a 5% down payment ($62,500) and minimal debt (California Association of Realtors Traditional Housing Affordability Index 2018).

Who can Afford to Own a Home?
State/Region/CountyPercent of households that can afford median home priceMedian Home PriceMonthly Payment Including Taxes & InsuranceMinimum Qualifying Income
United States54%$257,600$1,400$55,850
CA Condo/Townhome37%$460,000$2,490$99,730
CA Single Family Home28%$564,270$3,060$122,340
San Francisco Bay Area22%$910,000$4,930$197,290
Alameda County20%$890,000$4,820$192,960
Santa Clara County18%$1,250,000$6,780$271,010
San Mateo County15%$1,518,000$8,230$329,300
Santa Cruz County12%$885,000$4,800$191,870
*Data from the California Association of Realtors Traditional Housing Affordability Index Fourth Quarter 2018

Rental Homes

The average rent in Santa Clara County was $2,847 as of April 2019 (RentCafe). Note that it is difficult to pinpoint the precise rental rates, as different sources use different data.

Using a 30% payment standard, a renter would need to have an income of $113,880 to afford the average rental property (or about 110% 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 $93,737 to cover all monthly costs. 
  • A single parent with two children, preschool age and younger, would need an annual income of $128,750 to cover all monthly costs in Santa Clara County. 

Family Needs Calculator

Additional Resources:

Photo: Republic Family of Companies