New poll: Sacramento residents embrace quality of life, concerned about affordability, homelessness

Sacramento area residents believe the region is a good place to grow up, get a job and raise a family. But they’re less likely to rate the region as a good place to buy a house or retire — and they’re highly concerned about homelessness.

All this is according to a new poll out on Tuesday by Valley Vision other Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research. The quality-of-life survey looks generally at residents’ views and perspectives, in addition to specific issues such as affordability, job satisfaction and access and belonging.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s CEO and spoke to CapRadio about the survey.

CapRadio: You’re calling this “The Livability Poll.” What were you trying to find out?

Evan Smith: With The Livability Poll, we want to find out [about] people’s quality of life in our region and how well does our region support a high quality of life. So, we wanted to hear from residents about what’s important to them in their daily lives and what concerns them most.

Some of the themes that we dove into: access to basic needs and affordability; neighborhood amenities like walk-ability and open space; access to jobs and educational opportunities; mental and emotional health; civic commitment; safety and belongings. We want to know perceptions — do people think this is a good place to live and is this someplace they want to be?

And we should note this poll was conducted between mid-June and mid-July. So, when you asked people to name what their top concerns were, what did they tell you?

The two top concerns that came out were the cost of housing and homelessness. About 68% of residents cited the cost of housing as their biggest concern. In fact, 41% said they themselves can barely or cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgage.

And then we had 69% of residents citing homelessness as their top concern. A few other things that came up include environmental disasters that are increasingly becoming a regular part of Californian’s lives like wildfires and floods. About half of residents said that was a top concern for them.

One of the questions you asked was “Can residents afford what they need to live and thrive?” I’m guessing — with high gas prices, inflation and the way the housing market is — it’s not easy for a lot of folks.

This issue of affordability was a really big concern for people and we saw a lot of hardship in our poll and in the responses that we got. About one-third of residents said they cannot or they can barely afford an adequate food supply and 41% said they cannot or can barely afford to pay bills.

In addition to some of these most basic necessities like food and housing and health care, residents are also struggling to afford what they need to access opportunities and build their future. For example, about 43% said they can barely afford access to technology like internet service or smart phone or laptop and two-thirds said they can’t afford to set money aside in a savings account, which we know from existing data is a really strong indicator for financial well being.

You also asked if parents and children are getting the support they need. What were some of the findings there?

This is something we’ve been tracking since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. We fielded three public opinion polls since then to find out how the pandemic has impacted residents. The struggles that parents were experiencing around child care and education were one of the things in those surveys that really jumped out for us.

In this poll, we’re seeing that these issues remain really major for parents. These concerns really have not gone away. About one-third of parents said that they do not have access to the child care that they need, 81% of parents are concerned that their children are behind academically — and I think this is really coming out of the pandemic — and then 69% are concerned that their children don’t have access to the support or services that they had prior to the pandemic, and that includes things like lunches, counseling, after-school programs.

What about crime? How safe do people feel in the Sacramento region?

We found a lot of different types of responses around our region but almost all residents feel safe walking alone during the day — that’s 86%. But less than half feel safe walking alone at night.

Although almost all residents feel a sense of safety in their homes, there’s still a significant number who have concerns about property crime like car or home break-ins and that’s almost helped. This really lines up with our related data points that says that crime is one of the top four concerns for residents.

Evan, how will the results of this Livability Poll be used?

This Livability Poll is the first in what will become an annual poll. So this is going to be a way for us to check in every year on how our residents are doing across these important quality of life issues. It’s aligned with the Livability Summit which is happening today [Tuesday, October 4] and this event will also be an annual event that allows us all to come together as a region, to look at this data and have a chance to really dive in and talk about it and think about how we move forward and take action to help improve quality of life in our region.

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