There is a lack of affordable housing in California and it disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color

Californians have fallen prey to remarkable housing scarcity. The dearth of affordable housing has been exacerbated to the point that even individuals far above the national poverty line are struggling to rent or buy housing. As of 2019, the median home value in California is estimated to be roughly $509,400, 2.34 times higher than the national average of $217,600. In the Bay Area, the average home price is roughly $800,000 to $1,000,000. The high cost of homeownership has made it difficult for people to build wealth by purchasing homes, and many can only afford to rent residences instead.

Renting costs in California are also incredibly high compared to the rest of the nation: on average, a studio apartment costs as much as $914 per month and four bedroom residences cost as much as $2,166. The Bay Area has an average rental cost of $1,800 a month for studio apartments and as much as $4,000 a month for four bedroom residences. To put these prices into perspective, the average median income in California is roughly $71,805, which means that individuals who are fortunate enough to make that amount would be spending roughly 15% of their income to a studio apartment, or 30% of their salary to housing for the same square footage the Bay Area. Anyone who requires more than a studio apartment is forced to spend a higher percentage of their income on housing based on the same percentages.

Minorities suffer more in the housing crisis due to their lower average incomes. Latinos, the largest minority in California, have a median household income of $47,200, compared with a median household income of $69,606 for non-Latinos. Additionally, 23 percent of Latinos live in poverty compared to 12 percent of non-Latinos. With an income of $47,200, Latinos end up spending a higher percentage of their income on housing each month. Ultimately, studies have shown that low-income Blacks and Latinos in the Bay Area are at a higher risk of homelessness as a result of earning much less than the state and regional averages.

Despite this, many have tried to overcome the insurmountable struggle for affordable housing with creative solutions like opting to live in housing cooperatives instead of owning or renting conventional residences. Intentional communities, particularly housing cooperatives, are planned residential communities designed to house people with common interests or needs and share a communal interest in the property and its maintenance. Cooperatives offer a form of housing that subvert traditional single-family housing schemes, which have become prohibitively expensive. In order to begin discussing how zoning laws prevent greater use of  intentional communities, the following two sections will discuss the historical presence of intentional communities in America, and then describe the most common formations that intentional communities use today.