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A look at Salinas, California, farm-rich but unaffordable

SALINAS, Calif. — Here’s a look at some key information about Salinas, one of the nation’s least affordable metro areas to live. It’s a phenomenon that’s plaguing California, from its wealthiest areas, to working-class cities like Salinas.

— POPULATION: 157,000

— LOCATION: About 20 miles (32 kilometres) inland from the Monterey Peninsula and 60 miles (97 kilometres) south of the heart of Silicon Valley. Agriculture is the major industry in Salinas, which sits at the north end of the Salinas Valley producing most of the world’s lettuce and other leafy green vegetables. The region also grows strawberries and wine grapes.

— CLAIM TO FAME: Hometown of American author John Steinbeck and the setting of his novels “East of Eden” and “Of Mice and Men.” The plight of Salinas Valley farmworkers also inspired Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath.”

— TITLES: Nicknamed the “Salad Bowl of the World.” It’s also the fifth-least-affordable metro area in the U.S., according to a data analysis by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that compares housing costs to income.

— HOUSING PRICES: The median list price for a home in Salinas is nearly $550,000, while rent for a two-bedroom apartment is close to $1,800, according to Zillow. Families in Monterey County, which includes Salinas, make a median income of $69,000. The region’s 90,000 farmworkers make around $25,000 a year.

— WHAT’S AFFORDABLE? The federal government says homeowners and renters spending more than a third of their income on housing are facing unaffordable costs. For a family bringing in the median income, spending any more than $1,725 on housing is unaffordable. For farmworkers, that threshold is just $625 per month.

— LACK OF SUPPLY: A city study says the Salinas Valley region needs to build 5,300 new housing units just to serve its farmworker population alone.

— THE CALIFORNIA PICTURE: Salinas is one of seven California metro areas that are among the top 10 least affordable in the country, based on 2016 data. The state expects to need 1.8 million new homes by 2025 to meet demand. The median home price in the state is $535,000, while median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is a whopping $2,450 a month. The number is likely influenced by cities like San Francisco where two-bedroom apartments cost more than $4,000 in monthly rent.

The Associated Press

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