Pete Crowley, Maintenance Worker, Sonoma County Water Agency
At 5:15 every weekday morning, Peter Crowley checks to make sure his wife, who suffers from severe diabetes, is okay, says goodbye to his two kids, and climbs into his pickup truck in Lake County for a commute that takes about two and a half hours out of his day.
His job as a maintenance worker at the Sonoma County Water Agency doesn’t start until 7, but he needs to leave early to miss the traffic. He won’t get home until 11 or 12 hours later. “It’s scary to be that far away from her,” he says of his frail wife. But he has no choice.
For most of the 16 years he has worked for the agency, Crowley lived ten minutes from his job. But his rental unit was turned into a much bigger apartment complex — a place he can’t possibly afford. And there’s no housing in Sonoma County that is anywhere near his budget. So he was forced to move far from where he works.
“I’d much rather live in Sonoma,” he said. “I was born and raised in this area. But it’s out of reach.”
Pete Crowley is not alone. While rising housing costs in the Bay Area are getting a lot of press attention, workers all over the state are being forced to move further and further away from their jobs.
The housing justice divide is becoming a serious issue for working people. Workers want to live close to where their jobs are —but they can’t.
That’s a form of economic injustice: When workers have longer commutes, it costs more money just to get to work. It also takes more time away from families and personal lives — time that workers aren’t paid for.
Most urban planners agree that it’s better for people to live near where they work; commuting, and the energy it takes, is bad for the environment. But it’s also a huge economic burden that falls unfairly on the working people who are priced out of housing. Driving long distances to work is expensive, considering gas, tolls, parking, and car maintenance.
Sonoma County workers, working alongside community organizations and leaders, are standing up so that everyone who works to make our County great can afford to live here.