Aging Full Circle

Tom Brezsny
- Tom Brezsny

Aging Full Circle

Santa Cruz has aged full circle in recent years, coming back to its roots as one of the oldest Counties in the State. What a long, strange trip it’s been, going from that sleepy little beach town in the 1960s to today’s version which is officially THE oldest county in California and one that shows up on everyone’s list of top ten most expensive places to live on the planet!

Santa Cruz has a well-earned reputation for lots of things but who could have imagined it would ever qualify as one of the most expensive places! It wasn’t a conscious choice to make it unaffordable, it was always more about making it less “available” by limiting the number of homes and people coming from over the hill. Unofficially, the notion was: Keep Santa Cruz Weird by keeping it more to ourselves.

But after decades of slow growth, it turns out that availability and affordability are two aspects of the same housing crisis and weirdly, like those metaphorical frogs in the cooking pot, we didn’t notice prices getting turned up until it was too late.

Slow growth has been a boon for older residents who came here and bought houses a long time ago. My last 33 years as a Realtor have given me front row seat for the growing disparity of wealth, with homeownership being the main dividing point between the haves and have-nots.

By 2030, 1 in 5 people in the US will be older than 65. The huge swathe of aging baby boomers keeps coming (10,000 people a day are turning 65) and the Country is woefully unprepared for the enormity of that shift. Ditto for California where 1 in 4 people will be over 65 by 2030. And double ditto for Santa Cruz County where it will be 1 in 3 people!

Since 2010, Santa Cruz County has been aging faster than the rest of the State. The majority of single family homes here are owned by seniors and the average tenure of homeownership is increasing as homeowners age. A surprising percentage of local residents have been in their homes for 25 years and a significant number own their homes free and clear.

And since the early 1990s home values in Santa Cruz have appreciated 600% and when you add all the ways homeownership allows people to leverage loans, refinance to lower rates, claim tax deductions and capital gains exemptions and perhaps most notably in California, lock in low property taxes by virtue of Prop 13 (passed in 1978) it’s clear why it offers such an incredible edge to those lucky enough to own their own homes.

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