For a broader look at the rental market, including occupied units and rent-controlled units, you could just consult ACS data. That says that median rent for all occupied 1-bedrooms in San Fransisco was $1912 in 2017 .
Next up, the data itself needs to be "fresh" for this to work. It could be that cheaper apartments appear on the market frequently, but are rented right away. So as someone new in the city, you could find these cheap places if you looked for a bit, but a single survey will probably not catch these.
A better approach would be to look at the median of all new rented apartments throughout the year. That will give you an idea of what someone who comes to the city will realistically pay.
Zumper has also made a name for itself through its “National Rent Reports”
—more or less monthly press releases that claim to track median rental prices around the country.
These reports have received copious media coverage, from the Bay Area to Seattle to Nashville to Chicago to Boston to LA to Miami to Denver, and so on.
From what I've seen, it's definitely true, most "news" is at least influenced by PR firms. Part of why (now old school) blogs are so refreshing to read in contrast. I remember working at a startup, and our marketing person once asked the engineers to do some quick data analysis to get a soundbite just like this.
There are several reasons why the prices have gotten so high (lack of supply, politics, etc).
But don’t expect to move your Texas ranch or Midwestern single-family-house lifestyle to SF with no compromises.
But in return for your compromises, you will get quite a bit in return.
Is it worth it? That’s a very personal decision. For many, it’s not. For many, it is.
People are not entitled to 1BRs, but they are even less entitled to streets curated for 1-2 story detached houses at trivial distances from that human epicenter.
New York is the “human epicenter” in the US. San Francisco is in the same tier as Houston or DC: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/world2018t.html.
Paying New York/London prices to live in a city that is not New York or London is just sad.
I’m coming to this point. If I’m going to pay a New York level rent I might was well enjoy a 24/7 subway, a plethora of good restaurants and a beach that’s actually warm in the summer.
I haven't been to SF yet, but based on that Sankt Petersburg, Paris or NY seem more significant than SF.
There is a cost to society in effectively pricing out half of the population from an entire city. Is the benefit of mitigating that worth the cost?
For what it's worth, I think that it probably is.
Now in my case, the people who are shut out of my neighborhood arguably have less access to things like good schools, so in principle I'm uncomfortable with exclusionary zoning and economic segregation. But I don't know if that's the case in SF. Are the elementary schools in SF that much better than in surrounding towns?
There's a great deal of city-by-city, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, unit-by-unit variation, but the crisis is that even the floor is so high.
By some estimates it's double digit percentage points off US GDP
Part of the cost is that tech companies have to find more and more money to pay staff in order to maintain the growth their investors demand, which leads them to do less and less ethical things like spying on people.
While such a large portion of tech company revenue is going to landlords (via staff wages) tech companies will continue to get worse at things like privacy.
I never said anything about if someone deserves to live somewhere.
A 1-bedroom apartment is a very specific type of unit and that's part of what I wanted to point out. You can also rent studios, converted rooms, or get roommates in a bigger place with more rooms. There's a lot of other options I'm leaving out too, but I reject the premise that everyone in SF absolutely requires a 1-bedroom apt as an essential. It's nice to have certainly, and having roommates isn't for everyone...but there are tradeoffs to every place you live. You can absolutely make SF work if that was your desire and you knew the tradeoffs.
Look at median household income, San Francisco is effectively off limits to most people.
I’ll push back a little on your point back alternatives not being too far behind the price of a 1 bedroom though. I know several people with units <$1800. Some converted rooms go for <$1500.
Would you argue we shouldn't do anything about climate change because that will take years of approval and political decisions before anything gets done?
I mean, yeah, it would be better to start ten years ago than today, but starting today must be better than never right?
However I’m not holding my breath nor am I optimistic about the short-medium term reality.
>don’t see any solution anytime soon
There's not. But a solution 5 years from now is better than never.
I don't see how that follows. Manhattan is Manhattan, and yet prices still rise, families and communities are still displaced, and there are still people that are un or under-housed.
In America, housing is an asset that appreciates in value for the purpose of resale. For the middle class, housing has been the primary means of accruing wealth and for many is the entirety of their retirement savings.
A society that guaranteed housing to every citizen would be fundamentally, structurally different than the one we live in today. It's not a simple urban planning problem.
The parent is saying if SF had the housing density of Manhattan it would take decades of more growth before prices reach NYC levels.
Not in a world where zoning and nuisance laws exist, with good reasons.
I think we are reaching a really depressing future if only the wealthy can afford to have a family.
Bay Area is the most extreme example but we see it everywhere with no government mandated leave policies and childcare costs are insane. Again, only the wealthy get these services because they work at companies that use them for recruiting purposes and to retain talent.
And what if the service workers who make substantially less than the higher earners who so rely on them?
Does the cost go down that much for a 4 bedroom split between four people on minimum wage? In a lot of places it doesn’t.
Having high rent reduces your personal “runway”. This makes bootstrapped startups hard and it makes like as a lower-income worker very risky/stressful
Or are people like fast food workers being paid minimum wage and commuting 2 hours?
The market you believe in doesn't exist in a vacuum. The world is far more complex than that.
Hell I know someone paying $850 for a one bedroom in Duboce.
I’m curious how do you mean this? There are a plenty of reasons as to why I wouldn’t want to have a roommate and a 2bd is not affordable.
It's about location, not living space.
The argument is whether we should somehow alter what entitles you to an apartment in our system.
Is “alternate living arrangements” a euphemism for homelessness?
Most of NYC is better connected, more vibrant, more concerts, more sports, more universities, more housing, more international people, more business activity.
Yet, NYC is affordable with a "functioning" commute system. People on all spectrum of income can live there.
SF bay area has none of all that and yet is super expensive wasteland of suburbia. SF city is better but not even comparable to major cities of the world.
The only thing SF has going on for it is weather, outdoors (for which you need a car and a parking spot) and tech companies.
For any young padawans considering SF, it has its attractions but you won't know what a bubble it is until you get out. It's not worth spending one single life in the bubble.
And SF is oddly very, very different from San Jose or Palo Alto - they're literally different climates, like 10 degrees differential on most days!
SF proper is a very small city, less than 1m people!.
>> SF bay area has none of all that and yet is super expensive wasteland of suburbia. SF city is better but not even comparable to major cities of the world.
Most SV jobs are in the bay area. Even concerts, sports, shows in SF are in bay area not in SF proper.
SF proper is smaller than Jersey City or Brooklyn, with lesser walking stores/restaurants, lesser community activities and anyone not in a rent controlled apartment cannot live a life without stress in SF proper.
Less flexibility in starting a company: You can't choose to bootstrap unless you do it as a side hustle at a megacorp, and it's hard to not compete with a megacorp because it does everything. You have to take VC funding and follow VC rules to some degree, and it may not be a direction you wish to follow. This is a feedback loop.
Oligopsony employment conditions: If you wish to build savings and not spend all your money on rent, you can really only work for the largest and best funded companies, and even then you need to negotiate at a disadvantage, since they have far more information on the employment markets (because they're big) and they each know the other big players (because they're few) and can bound salaries through price leadership. This is also a feedback loop.
I'm concerned we will see fewer "real" companies like Intel/Apple, and more Snapchat clones and e-scooter startups. Less meaningful bets, less drive, and more complacency -- borne out of the desire to cannibalize social trust (e.g. if you work hard, you earn shelter) and the societal fabric (e.g. all people deserve shelter as a basic human right) for privatized financial gain.
I hear this a lot and it still makes absolutely no sense. Where will they get the shelter from? What if the builder doesn't want to build a house for that person? Is the plan to force the labor out of them? Every positive right that I have ever seen comes along with an implicit demand that somebody else become a slave.
There’s no force involved, it’s a potential principle of self-organisation.
That means it's not a human right. If your government is engaging in real human rights violations you don't say things like, "potentially maybe we might want to reconsider how we organize our society."
One example of a human rights violation would be, the government makes up for a shortfall in their black budget by engaging in human trafficking. Whatever the solution to that - keep the dictator, change the dictator, give the president a second term; that's all situational, what's not is that you have to quit doing it.
>“Shelter as a basic human right” means that we have a moral imperative to organise and structure our societies so that that right is fulfilled.
Essentially, the problem is, that's not what it means. A human right is a value that you are willing to see your civilization stop existing if that's what it takes to preserve it. If you made housing that high of a priority things would quit working pretty quickly. On the other hand, if you gave public trials to criminals who were willing to surrender, things would go pretty well.
The people building houses are working because they are paid and they prefer that to the existing social safety net.
If you are allowed to say, "our budget isn't adding up today so some people will have to stay on the wait list a bit longer," you aren't acting like it's a human right. Human rights are maximum priorities, not just high priorities.
An example of a reasonable human right would be that your own government can't kill you without a fair public trial. If a country ended up in a situation where they had to assassinate a businessman to keep their budget balanced, it would be reasonable to say "forget about the budget, you can't just take one of your own citizens out." However, if you had to loosen up the housing program because your tax revenue came in low that year, doing so would be potentially a reasonable option. "Potentially a reasonable option" is not even remotely on the table for human rights violations, which is why housing can't be a human right.
Housing could be a right in that sense: the government shall make no law preventing the construction of housing. Of course, like all other rights, it would be balanced against reasonable government interests like ensuring that the housing is safe.
The most pragmatic objection to this would be that everything you do prevents the construction of housing - if you build a city hall, you are preventing an apartment block from being built on the same land. Taxes prevent the construction of housing because the reduce the funds available to home builders and buyers. Property rights prevent the construction of housing because they would prevent me from setting up a tent in your front lawn. Making housing a right is a wellspring of endless absurdities, unless you are willing to treat it as a "maybe" goal. Maybe-goals and human rights are disjoint sets.
>Of course, like all other rights, it would be balanced against reasonable government interests...
So, let's look at a real human rights example, being assassinated by your government because you are protesting something. The dictator might claim that they were balancing your life against reasonable government interests - the reasonable response would be, "no interest is so reasonable that what you did would be justified." That's the thesis of human rights, if anything is justifiable then you don't believe in human rights. It's not that complicated.
So, if you think that housing as a basic human right can be suspended for reasonable reasons, you either don't really think it's a human right, don't believe in human rights at all, or are proposing a distorted crazyland.
Life: people die every day in the US. In some cases, the government even kills them!
Liberty: We put people in jail
Speech: Incitement to riot; slander
Press: Libel; national security
Religion: If your religion includes e.g. human sacrifice you certainly won't be free to practice it.
And so forth.
Providing housing most of the time is just a program. Providing housing all of the time with no exceptions, like you would expect from a human right, involves some serious distortions of other values. That's the problem, people are using the word human right when they mean high priority. It's a high priority that I do my laundry, but if society were organized so that I did my laundry at all costs, if we were all convinced that a society where I did not do my laundry did not deserve to exist, then things would get pretty crazy.
This isn't some paperclip maximalization requirement you adhere to the social contract, and under the wrong conditions will force people into house-building labor camps. Human rights are how you reason about resource allocation. You have a right to a trial by a jury of your peers, but that obviously doesn't mean a judge must preside over your case that same day by threat of force. We can recognize physical realities, while still understanding that if we wanted to, we could provide a social safety net that includes a place to sleep.
> If your country ran out of money, if the builders all started working for foreign companies
If your country runs out of money, many human rights are probably in danger.
Either way, I always avoid phrasing things as positive rights. But they can usually be rephrased as “I believe it would be in the interest of our society and the well being of our people to provide housing for all people.”
Because it will.
Nobody's asking for government funds to build housing in SF. Developers are lining up to build housing funded entirely out of their own pockets. People who are pro-housing generally just want to government to stop preventing people from building more high density housing on property they already own.
So, if you're arguing some sort of taxes and government regulation are bad thing, you should be in favor of drastically more housing in SF.
Clarification: people who think they need "smart" neighbours as if they are going to play chess with neighbours 24 x 7
What cant there be more housing development on the edge of SF, or taller building with many smaller apartments etc. Underground packing lot?
Edit: Ok, is it because it is in an Earthquake zone?
http://projects.scpr.org/prop-13/stories/housing-shortage/ has a good write up.
Because land isn't taxed based on it's current value landowners have little incentive to develop their land in order to get the most out of it. They simply bank land as much as possible as it's the most surefire way to turn a profit. It's why we have golf courses* in city centers and dilapidated shacks* next to Google's global HQ.
Additionally, prop 13 gives landowners every incentive to lobby for policies that restrict development in order to drive up prices instead of fighting for the right to build 4 story apartments on their property.
Slashing property taxes always floods the market with speculators and destroys housing affordability. Look at Vancouver, or Malta, their housing shortages rival SF despite low wages and comparatively small economies.
Needing a permit to install windows is a thing everywhere. Because if you want a really good way to ruin a house, installing windows wrong is a great way to do it.
The truth is that it’s prime real estate with a beautiful climate, and risks of earthquakes aside (and you can’t avoid natural disasters of some kind wherever you live) lots of people would like to live there. That’s no more an argument to build build build than it is to knock down any existing popular city or town and build high rises. While this argument is often derided as “NIMBYism” it is also true that it is in fact already some people’s back yard in the first place. A balance needs to be struck between the people and interests who’ve invested generations in a place, and people who want to flood in and change it to suit their desires.
Three of the edges of SF are water.
I'll agree with you that if you work at a rando tech startup, the costs of living are going to be quite high, and make it probably not worth it.
But, the whole equation changes if you are working for a big 5 tech company, or hot unicorn company.
These companies will pay you double what the rando startups pay. Who really cares if you are paying 40k a year on rent, if your total compensation breaks 250K.
And getting 250k+ as an engineer, with a couple years experience, is only really possible in the Bay area.
Seattle and NYC can also easily reach that.
Source: I'm in Seattle making 210k 3 years out of college.
If more high-density housing was built, then rents would fall, middle-income people could live here again, and tech workers could pocket their fat salaries as savings (or live extremely lavish lifestyles). They would still be paid a lot, because there'd always be another tech company around the corner willing to bid up wages to their current level. For the salary "bubble" to pop, a lot of these companies would have to go out of business at once. This was exactly what happened in 2001 and 2009, and it had the predicted results: unemployment spiked, wages fell, rents fell, and people moved out of the Bay Area back to wherever they came from.
I think it's a dangerous attitude to think the salaries in CA are the actual worth of a software developer's work. It's just what FAANG can afford to pay. For many companies devs at that price point are not economically sustainable.
(Also, while there's some variance for cost-of-living in FAANG salaries in different regions, it's not that much. Google developers make less in Beijing than they do in Mountain View, but their salary still looks much more like a Google salary than a Beijing salary.)
(It's also significantly more reasonable in the South Bay - my family pays about $2650/month for a 2BR, and most of the fat Facebook/Apple/Netflix/Google salaries are in Silicon Valley proper.)
That's not really true. Restaurants are more expensive in the Bay Area. Fresh produce is not, if you know where to shop - actually, when I go basically anywhere else in the world, one of the things I miss is the ability to fill a whole shopping bag with 10-15 lbs. of vegetables for < $10. Gas is more expensive, largely because of taxes. Cars are not. Durable goods cost the same as everywhere else. Amazon charges the same (modulo taxes) regardless of where you live. Airline tickets don't have appreciable differences. Baby things (modulo housing and childcare) are cheaper, because the Bay Area is dense enough and tech savvy enough that you can get a lot of toys/cribs/strollers/mats/gates/playthings for free or cheap on NextDoor/Craigslist. A dollar of savings is the same in SF as in Alabama.
The point about tax rates is true for rentals. You can do the math yourself on whatever offer you happen to get - figure on housing in SF being ~$40K/year, meals out costing about $20/person, grocery food being about the same, public transportation being a few dollars a trip, and gas being negligible because you'd have to be pretty crazy to want to drive (and park) in SF.
For that matter, the higher home prices also come back to you if you choose to move elsewhere (as long as Bay Area real estate doesn't crash). A number of the homes I've been looking at are on the market because the kids are grown, the owners are retired, and now they want to take their $1.3-$2.4M and move to Nevada/Florida/Arizona or some other low-COL area.
If saving $30k in Chicago lets you sustain your lifestyle for 12 months of unemployment, and saving $30k in San Francisco gives you the option to leave everyone you know and move 2200 miles to Chicago for 12 months of unemployment, those dollars of savings are not at all the same in terms of the protection they offer.
Living in the Bay Area can be a good deal, but to figure out whether that's the case, you need to set savings targets in terms of equivalent capabilities. Different people can place higher and lower value on location stability, but in any case the value is not $0; moving trucks and realtors are not free.
50% is a high estimate, good for budgeting though. With property taxes, vehicle registration fees (aka taxes), school fundraising (aka taxes), tolls (also tax), health insurance (a tax if it’s mandatory), and other fees for dealing with government, you get pretty close to 50%.
The only way to beat this is to make a significant portion of your income via capital gains, that’s one big advantage of the real estate business, various loopholes exist to let you minimize taxes (like 1031 exchanges) on increases in your net worth.
Much better for those who can arguably restructure their salary as business income (e.g., real estate developers, some contractors), then they only get a 15% tax. Far worse for those who cant make that argument and live in high tax states like NY, CA, and many others.
Not surprisingly, this makes recruiter jaws drop. We're not even on the same page.
In most parts of the country, though, those requirements work just fine.
Can't recall the specifics, but my offer from a FAANG back then was a bit over $200K gross. But a lot of that isn't really liquid cash that you could use to pay the mortgage. It doesn't really fly.
These days, for the scenario above, even $300K/y cash seems marginal. And AFAIK, no one in the BA would seriously consider offering me that.
Lest someone complain that I seem entitled, let me say that I in no way consider that I somehow deserve such an offer. But at the same time, no BA employer deserves someone like me when I can get equivalent comp elsewhere.
IMO, the way BA comp works is you engage in raids for five to ten years when you're in your late 20s or early 30s. Live in squalor, three or five roommates, and bank it all. Do not marry. Then take your winnings back to the real world and retire, or at least, live an easy life.
But if you want a traditional life, thar be dragons...
"Peter Thiel: The vast majority of the capital I give companies is just going to landlords" 
Thiel in particular is German and has made some particularly scathing comments about the German startup scene (to the German press).
For comparison, in NYC, it's $83,450.
And there are some real natives with rent control housing.
I lived in Palo Alto for half a year before I even though about how the grocery store clerks could affor living there (which they don't). You also notice the lack of children after a while.
If you have been living in same place for years it's possible your rent is less than half as much as someone who moved into a similar unit this year.
The other case is that people not in high paying jobs don't live there and instead live far away and have 1 hour plus commutes.
Ultimately businesses have to relocate to find talent. Seattle, Austin, NYC and Boston are super well-positioned. Amazon HQ2 is important for this very reason. It is a gigantic churner of talent and can do wonders.
Specifically looking at the Mission, there was a time that a sub-$3000 one bedroom was very rare. Now you can find plenty in the $2500-$3000 range and even some decent ones below $2500.
There is also more inventory.
Always wanted to move to San Fran but starting to feel pretty grateful about being here.
EDIT: As noted by the sibling post, the reason it is cheap is because Walnut Creek does not have very many tech jobs. Also, the peculiar thing about the Bay Area is that about 15 years or so the tech industry oscillates its epicenter between San Francisco and the South Bay. From Walnut Creek you can reach San Francisco in an hour, but if you have clients/partners/HQ etc in South Bay it is one bad commute.
It's completely dead and devoid of culture.
Even in the Sunset and the Richmond, 1 bedroom rents are still expensive. I poked around Craigslist recently and found plenty in the $2500 range. If you go across the bay, it's a little better. And, if you can deal with BART turning into a pumpkin at midnight, you might enjoy your work commute more.
Edit: this post assumes you take a job in SF. But, big companies are building more and more office campuses on the peninsula, away from reasonable public transit options. If I recall correctly, office rents in the city are actually on the rise, considerably, and it is driving larger employers out of the city under the guise of "putting our employees together to collaborate better."
About 40-45 minutes from SF and San Jose time wise regardless of time of the day.
That’s where the premiums comes from
But even with that commutes are soul sucking. I pay $2.7k for a tiny apartment but not having to deal with a commute longer than 5 minutes walking is amazing for my overall well being.
Are these luxury places?
* No Washer/Dryer in the unit. You'll usually share.
* No parking spot.
* No-one will be around to pick up parcels for you.
* You'll have to put the rubbish bins out for the bin man.
* The stove and fridge and heating won't be using the latest stuff. You're not expecting to have a Nest or a Viking but you won't get a nice stove either, it'll be very basic.
Honestly, it's a downgrade in standard of living for me but not to the point that it annoys me. Those things were just luxuries. Really the washer/dryer being in my unit is the one thing I really miss.