Do you qualify as poor in Palo Alto? Spoiler: Yes, yes, you do

Housing assistance and the tale of the $175,000 butler

Analysis When you think of affordable housing programs, it's probably safe to say you're thinking about cooks, or cleaners, or even teachers being given a way to live near the neighborhoods where they work. In effect, it's bedrooms for poor people.

Except of course in Palo Alto – the heart of Silicon Valley, California. Because in Palo Alto you are now officially poor if you earn less than $250,000 a year.

The city council this month passed a housing plan that will subsidize the "middle class" so they can afford to live in the city of the super-rich.

Where the average household wage across the United States is $54,000, that jumps to $167,500 in Palo Alto, representing the top eight per cent of earners across the country.

But even for those earning in the top eight per cent, housing in Palo Alto is next to impossible to afford: the median house price in the city of 67,000 is $1.73m, leaving it far out of reach of even highly paid professionals. Even small, run-down two-bedroom, one-bath places are selling for more than $1.5m.

Hence the new definition of middle class, as proposed by the Palo Alto council: $150,000 to $250,000. The housing plan will build smaller, downtown units in with mixed-use retail and residential developments.

Vice mayor Greg Scharff said at the meeting: "Prices have just gone through the roof, making it unaffordable for middle-class people, your firefighters, your teachers, and, frankly, some of your doctors."

Downton Abbey in 2016

Just who are the people that can afford such crazy house prices and how do they live?

Well, one job ad that had garnered a lot of attention this week appears to show us. It's a really good salary: $175,000. But it's not for a vice-president, or a superstar coder. No, this job ad is for a butler.

"We are looking for the BEST Personal Assistant for an extremely creative client in Noe Valley," the ad starts, referring to the San Francisco neighborhood. "This client has recently remodeled their 10,000-sq-foot home and is looking for an Assistant/House Manager who can help run their day-to-day lives."

What does the job involve? "Calendar management for this family of 5 (plus a puppy!), help with travel planning, restaurant reservations, to running local errands and organizing closets and pantries."

They also need someone to organize a gift database and "cleaning routine for the housekeeper and groundsmen" – that's men.

This is 2016 though, so they don't just want an ignoramus like Mr Carson from Downton Abbey, they need someone with a pedigree: "Anyone with a background in architecture or art would be a bonus to this client – as they have an extensive art collection comparable to a museum!"

If you want to work for this insufferably over-privileged family, you will need 10 years experience as a PA or house manager plus of course "a deep level of commitment to service and understand white glove service, yet feel comfortable in a more casual environment."

The perks? You will get to help them "entertain High Profile friends from around the world."

Interesting though – the ad does not mention whether you would be given a room in the house. So before you accept the $175,000 job, you may want to apply for housing assistance. ®

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