Our hearts go out to the residents and business owners who have suffered in the counties to north of Marin from the horrific fires.
As leaders of the San Rafael Chamber and North Bay Leadership Council, we are proud that our members are actively working to help the North Bay recovery. And while those efforts to provide funding, resources and personnel are important, they won’t mitigate the bigger problem facing Marin County.
We got a big dose of reality of what happens when key parts of our workforce who are unable to live where they work, then become unable to live anywhere near where they work.
Over 5,200 structures have been destroyed in Sonoma County, displacing thousands of families. And who makes up those families? Marin’s teachers, first-responders, hospitals’ staffs, in-home health care workers and other essential employees.
Since 60 percent of Marin’s workforce
commutes in from other counties, most employers will feel the effects of the dwindling pool of workers.
As will their customers.
The housing crisis in Marin was already making it increasingly hard to fill vacant positions. The disaster in the North Bay will now make filling those openings even more difficult as affordable and workforce housing shrinks in supply.
The displaced workers will not be able to live within range of their current jobs and will be forced to relocate to where housing is available.
Now is the time for Marin to build more housing in order to offer employees the ability to live in the county in which they work, otherwise it will have steep repercussions.
Businesses can’t thrive if they don’t have the workforce they need. Many will pack up and leave just as their employees are being forced to do.
We must recognize why so many live outside of Marin — the housing costs are simply out of reach for the average worker. It’s even out of reach for two-income families.
And we can now see, every day since the fires, the price we all pay for this. We cannot operate without all of these essential workers here, to keep our economy healthy, to keep our schools running, to keep our streets, parks and other facilities operating.
This is a wake-up call for a different kind of emergency — the need for more workforce housing in Marin. It is time to say “yes” to more housing in Marin.
Please join us by becoming a member of the Housing Crisis Action Group. Let’s encourage more accessory and junior accessory units in our neighborhoods.
Let’s support new housing development that meets community standards. Let’s welcome our workforce home.
Joanne Webster is president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. Cynthia Murray is president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council.