A City in Crisis: Bay Area residents reveal deep concern over high rent and housing costs

By Emily Xu

Y2 staff writer

SAN FRANCISCO— Bay Area residents reveal a deep level of concern over the destabilizing effects of high-cost housing and rent. A two-bedroom apartment in the city, on average, costs over $4000, four times the national median, while an average house costs $900,000, nearly three times the national median.

“When I was in North Carolina of my last job, even at $5,000 less a year, I could afford to live by myself, I can afford to travel more,” said 29-year-old San Francisco resident Sara Falardo. “Luxuries, like going out to eat and shopping and things like that it were a little more for me, because I had a bigger gap between my income and expenses here.”

“A Bubble Ready to Burst”:

Residents mention a surge in the homeless population with affordable housing on the decline. They also note an unhealthy demographic change as low and middle-income earners migrate out of the area. According to The Urban Displacement Project, over 10 percent of Bay Area neighborhoods had already been transformed by gentrification with nearly 50 percent currently experiencing the process.

“This is the one place where I've seen even medical professionals who can't afford [housing],” said 34-year-old San Mateo resident Salwa Muhammad. “I've never seen that in any other part of the country.”

The displacement of service workers and middle-income professionals such as teachers and nurses projects a worrisome future for the city’s economy. More restaurants are requiring customers to bus their own tables because waiters are becoming unaffordable, and the average teacher can only afford 0.7 percent of all homes in San Francisco.

“Increasingly, you can't even afford to live in like Oakland,” said 48-year-old San Francisco resident Ryan Moore. “And so people have to commute further…the schools have a harder time recruiting people to be able to teach here because they know that they come here, they're never going to be able to buy a house.

"It definitely feels like its own kind of bubble that at some point is going to burst. You can’t have a city made up of software engineers, you have to have a division of labor.”

As tech companies such as Google and Facebook attract more high-income earners to the area and foreign investors continue to speculate, rent and housing prices are driven up by increasing demand and decreasing supply. In February, the jobless rate in California fell to 4.3 percent. In the tech sector alone, at least 3,400 jobs were added to the Santa Clara County, the San Francisco-San Mateo metro area, and the East Bay combined, accounting for 57 percent of all jobs added to the Bay Area.

“It’s a combination of factors, but really the overlying thing is is that real estate and housing is treated as a commodity as opposed to something that's a right,” Moore said. “There's no money to be made in building affordable housing. Then there's all this money to be made in building these real estate, high rise condos that […] a lot of times, people don't even live in.

“They're just real estate investments … on any given night, like about 7000 people [are] homeless in San Francisco alone, and you have but but an even greater number of apartments empty every night.”

The San Francisco homeless count and survey in 2017 estimates that there are 7499 homeless citizens on the streets of SF.

Effects on Community:

Residents mention that in addition to contributing to the homeless crisis, the increase in housing prices has eroded San Francisco’s social culture and community. In order to account for the high cost of living, more residents are rooming with others to split the cost, making it difficult to start families.

“Some of the long term effects are that people are [going to] move out of the Bay Area […] especially when they're no longer in their 20s and single unable to live with roommates,” Falardo said.

“I'm 29, I'm hoping that I'll be married by the time I'm in my 30s, maybe I want a baby, I don't think I could afford to buy a house or an apartment on my income or someone else's income. “

A recent Bay Area Council survey reveals that 46 percent of residents plan on moving away soon. 32-year old San Francisco resident Ekland Abdiwahab said she already has plans.

“I came here for school graduate program, so I am here for at least two years,” she said. “And then after that, I’ll probably move to the East Bay, just because culturally San Francisco is not my type of city. I think it's lost a lot of its heart.

“If you have money San Francisco seems to be a place for you to be in […] But I was looking for a place where I feel like I know my neighbors, and I'm invested in the city and I'm invested in kids and other sort of social programs.”

Facing the Crisis:


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