Real Estate and the Affordable Care Act

Lots of things affect the housing market; one of them is demographics. In the Ukiah Valley, our population is aging and that drives up demand for smaller homes. Once children grow up and leave home, a house with multiple bedrooms is unnecessary and can be a lot to take care of.

As people age, the need for health care also becomes more pressing. When people are in their twenties and thirties, purchasing a home in a city with a hospital and enough doctors to care for the local population, while important, isn’t usually as urgent as whether local schools will provide a good education for their children.

In the Ukiah Valley, having enough doctors is a chronic problem. We are a small, rural community, but our housing costs are more in line with larger metropolitan areas. In essence, when recruiting doctors, we say, “Come to Ukiah where you can make less money and pay more for housing than other rural areas.” It’s a tough sell.

Ukiah Valley Medical Center and Mendocino Community Health Clinic work hard to recruit doctors, offering them salary guarantees and loan repayment options, but the doctor shortage is nationwide and doctors can make more money elsewhere. MCHC Recruiter, Kelly Clark, says, “Recruiting doctors and other providers to a rural community can be challenging. In fact, recent studies clearly depict the challenge: twenty percent of the population lives in rural communities; nine percent of medical doctors practice in rural communities; three percent of recent medical school graduates plan to practice in rural areas.”

Compounding the shortage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will provide health insurance coverage for an estimated additional 6,000 to 10,000 people in Mendocino County. While that’s great for the people who need health insurance, it puts additional pressure on our taxed medical community. Finding a primary care doctor is already tough. The ACA will make it tougher. To take care of these additional people as of January 1, 2014, we need three to five more primary care doctors. I understand Kaiser Permanente is willing to cover people in Ukiah, but then we have to drive to Santa Rosa for care.

As our population ages, we’ll also need more assisted living facilities. Theoretically, with the ACA, we won’t go to the hospital as often because we’ll all be getting preventive care. However, at some point, we’ll need care. Just like a 20-year-old car that’s gotten regular maintenance and only been driven by the most reasonable drivers, at some point, the car will wear out.

So, again, as we’re “competing” with other Northern California regions when it comes to housing, we are seeing our housing prices increase compared to, say, the Sacramento Valley. Whether it’s because of government regulations, our underground economy, available land, or some combination of these factors, it’s hard to know exactly and doesn’t matter. Any way you slice it, our prices are higher.

Even though that’s the case, I have to say, I’d rather live here than Sacramento or some of the other, more affordable areas. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

Next time I’ll write about short sale tax relief. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.


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