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Adventures in Housing

She left California for Arizona, but found high rent and lower wages

Maria Hollenhorst Dec 5, 2022
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Taylor Jenkins moved to Arizona from the San Francisco Bay Area in search of more affordable housing, but she struggled to find it there. Above, Jenkins in Arizona. Courtesy Taylor Jenkins
Adventures in Housing

She left California for Arizona, but found high rent and lower wages

Maria Hollenhorst Dec 5, 2022
Heard on:
Taylor Jenkins moved to Arizona from the San Francisco Bay Area in search of more affordable housing, but she struggled to find it there. Above, Jenkins in Arizona. Courtesy Taylor Jenkins
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COPY

Growing up in Cupertino, California, Taylor Jenkins witnessed the impact of Silicon Valley’s growth on the Bay Area housing market. 

“I remember slowly seeing everyone leave,” she said. “Especially the Latina/Latino and other African American kids just dwindled every year I was in school.”

Jenkins’ own family moved out of Cupertino to the East Bay when she was in high school. As she got older, she grappled with what her home state’s high housing costs would mean for her. 

“As a 20-something-year-old who wasn’t a college graduate, I didn’t think it was possible for me to end up moving out on my own,” she said. “Either I stay with my parents forever or I would have to leave.”

In 2021, a friend who was living in Prescott Valley, Arizona, told Jenkins she was looking for a new roommate. “Two weeks later, I was en route,” Jenkins said. “It wasn’t a super-informed decision.”

During the pandemic, a surge of migration to Arizona fueled record price increases in and around Phoenix. The city remains a top destination for homebuyers leaving expensive coastal cities, according to data from Redfin

“I was working close to 40 hours a week, commuting back and forth from Phoenix to Prescott Valley, and all I could make was my rent and my bills,” Jenkins said. “I would actually DoorDash after work. So I was getting home at like 3, 4 in the morning trying to make ends meet.”

According to a National Low Income Housing Coalition report, an Arizona worker would need to earn more than $23 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, the 2022 state minimum wage is under $13 an hour

For Jenkins — who now works as a preschool teacher — Arizona’s rising housing insecurity fueled by new residents moving in felt all too familiar. 

“I remember hearing the conversation my parents were having about rent and about where to go … and now, as a Californian, I see it happening here,” she said. “But I need somewhere to live.”

As the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, Arizona’s housing market is cooling down. The median rent in Phoenix has now decreased slightly year over year, according to the rental platform Apartment List

That said, Phoenix’s median rent remains well above its pre-pandemic levels. Jenkins remembers seeing a bumper sticker shortly after moving to Arizona that said, “Keep your California out of my Arizona.” 

“I remember reading that and, like, almost laughing to myself,” she said. “Because it’s already here.”

Click the audio player above to hear Jenkins’ story. Tell us your housing story using the form below, and you may be featured on a future edition of “Adventures in Housing.”

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