Napa Valley strangers talk housing struggles over a pizza party
This story was produced as part of a larger project led by Courtney Teague, a participant in the 2019 California Fellowship.
Other stories in this series include:
Courtesy: Kaylee Fagan, Renaissance Journalism
It’s hard for many of us to afford living in the Napa Valley.
So what makes us stay? And how do we move forward?
A dozen strangers with local roots gathered this week at Napa’s CrossWalk Community Church to discuss that and more over a meal of Filippi’s pizza and raviolis.
They openly shared intimate details of their housing woes as parents, business owners, low-earning workers or retirees. They lamented rent increases, the strain that vacation homes put on the housing stock, pricey market rate rents and low wages that barely pay the bills. They debated the challenges of balancing the valley’s small-town feel with high housing demand, and sought to learn about resources for locals and how other communities address their housing tribulations.
The dinner was hosted by the Register. It was made possible thanks to Renaissance Journalism‘s On the Table program, which is sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and seeks to spark community conversation over a meal. The University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism also helped fund the event.
The event was the first of its kind for the Register’s Costs of Living: Napa Valley series. The paper is teaming up with KVON and KVYN to report on how the cost of housing affects the physical and mental health of local residents thanks to funding and training provided by USC’s Center for Health Journalism.
Dinner guests were split at two tables and joined by Alissa Abdo and Pablo Zatarain, executive directors of Napa nonprofits On the Move and Fair Housing Napa Valley, respectively. Abdo and Zatarain participated in discussions at separate tables, and offered perspective and advice to guests.
Each person at Zatarain’s table was affected by housing struggles in different ways, he said. They worried about complaining to landlords for fear they’d be evicted, health hazards at home and the amount of physical space they had to live in.
It was encouraging to see that guests were vulnerable with each other and willing to open up about personal struggles, Zatarain said.
“People are living those consequences (of the housing crisis),” he said.
At times, dinner guests became emotional while discussing their housing struggles. But they empathized, shared some laughs and expressed a desire to see more community conversations about housing in the future.
They hoped to see local media tell stories about housing like theirs.
Help the Register tell those stories.
Finding affordable housing is hard and it’s getting harder. Tell the Register about the sacrifices that you make to afford life in Napa Valley by taking our survey at bit.ly/2Mcea2r, emailing us at CostsOfLivingNV@gmail.com, or calling or texting 707-200-8210.