Cheap rent: A thing of the past

photo by Trenttsd via creative commons

Surfed Craigslist for an apartment lately? Then you don’t need us to tell you that rent in San Francisco is too damn high. But what are the broader implications of this becoming a city where median asking rent is above $3,000?

Here’s an example. Today, District 11 Sup. John Avalos shared a story with the Guardian about his arrival to San Francisco in 1989. He had $1,000 to his name, enough to cover rent and a security deposit. He landed a job that paid just $8 an hour, but that was no big deal, since he split the rent for his $675-per-month, two-bedroom apartment in the Haight with a friend.

Translate those 1989 figures to 2013 dollars, and the dramatic rent increases the city has experienced really come into focus. With inflation factored in, that same two-bedroom apartment would cost $1,253 per month today. Noticed any Craigslist ads for two-bedroom apartments in the Haight going for $1,253 lately? (If so, be careful. It's probably a scam.) Rents for such units hover closer to $4,000 these days.

Avalos joined his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors in highlighting issues of affordability at Tuesday's meeting. “San Francisco needs to do something specifically to measure how people, particularly those on the bottom rung, are getting by in San Francisco," he commented just prior to the vote for board presidency.

District 9 Sup. David Campos echoed this sentiment. "I want a city that works, but I want a city that works for everyone,” Campos said. “We have to work collectively to make sure that happens ... We have great wealth in the city, but many people are being pushed out."


I care about the tens of millions of people in the United States who exist without adequate access to health care.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

It's not about who you care about. It's about factual sloppiness.

Posted by anon on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

Why shouldn't poor people get free health care?

Posted by Hortencia on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 11:14 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 11:45 am

Bombs Not Bandaids.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

arab terrorists than from the great unwashed at home.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

you've made a passable argument for the increase in the minimum wage, have you not?

The effective withholding rate for Social Security was 15% since the early Eighties because every dollar of tax on the wage earners' labor transaction must be matched by the employer.

(Incidentally, the matching payments are sometimes portrayed as employer "largesse," but though at time of Social Security's first implemention the requirement for the employer to match payments amounted to a government-mandated raise for all workers, over time it has become a meaningless distinction: a tax on the wage earner's labor transaction is a tax on the worker. Employers can evade the tax by replacing workers with machines, but workers cannot evade the tax.)

The withholding rate was reduced to it's pre-1983 rate of 12% to cope with the economic downturn which coincided with 8 years of Republican economic policies.

Anyhow, the main step which needs to be taken to ensure Social Security's full liquidity is to eliminate the $110,100 cap on taxable income.

As for Medicare, I'm no expert, but I have a hunch that the biggest problem with Medicare is the rapacious for-profit health system which precedes it, and that works in a number of ways to feed the most gravely sick patients into it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 9:30 am

1) There is no cap for the employer contribution anyway

2) SSI is not welfare - it's an insurance contract. That means that the workers isn't paying a tax (even tho it gets called a payrolltax). The worker is paying a premium to buy insurance against getting disabled and not be able to work. And against the risk of retiring with no pension.

Contributions are capped because benefits are capped. And nobody is suggesting uncapping benefits because high earners should not be paid million dollar a year pensions from the public purse.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 10:34 am

Then why do you keep referring to it as an entitlement?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:03 am

The term "entitlement", as in "entitlement spending" or "entitlement program" is generally held to be any welfare benefit that is partly or wholely unrelated to contributions made.

With SS, there is a relationship between contributions and entitlement to benefits but it is not linear like, say, an IRA or 401K pension is. Rather your pension depends partly on your contributions but partly on other factors which are unearned.

Ditto for MediCare.

While MediCaid is 100% entitlement programs/

What all three have in common, however, is that there is no fund that under-writes them - they are "pay as you go" (AKA Ponzi.

And all three face stunning deficits in the future as our demographics change, and so they need to be addresses. Almost all politicians agree the current "promised" benefits cannot be sustained.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:19 am

They never liked the program and this is their latest ploy to destroy it.

The problem is that they are stuck hinting around what needs to be done to achieve their goal.

The hints seems so justified, so reasonable, the way they are delivered; but the reality isn't justifiable or reasonable in the least.

They will have us dis-credit U.S. Treasury Notes. (Not all of em! -- just some!)

What would it mean? A one-for-ten devaluation only affecting one specific holder of T-bills? Why pick on Social Security?

The 'pugs keep on hinting because the truth of their intent is insupportable.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

backing up the liabilities. It is merely a government promise predicated on their hope that they can extract enough tax from enough people in the future to prevent the nation going bankrupt from paying impossibly generous benefits to anyone who happens to have had a job.

Nobody is seriously denying that the scheme has massive funding issues - they just quibble over how to fix that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

and we can continue by looking at spendthrift military and intelligence practices...

and after we address corporate tax giveaways and loopholes...

then we'll find it isn't necessary to follow the repugnicans' plan to reneg on the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Which just leaves you, unshowered, unshaven, wearing shabby clothes, in your rent controlled hovel, hating on tomorrow when you're back to your minimum wage job at Losers Inc.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

The two key things to remember about lilli is:

1) He wants a steadily expanding stream of government benefits directed at him.

2) He doesn't want to pay for any of it. You can pay for it.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:45 am

are often the most wealthy. They go on to live many years collecting the benefit of Social Security.

And your claim about their being no cap on employer side of contributions is the sort of bold nonsense which in seemingly inexaustable supply here.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

I agree that those who live long get more out of SS but to suggest that that is a deliberate policyd esigned to stiff the poor is disingenuous. Lifespan is a total lottery and many poor folks live to be 100.

To the other, what would you know about employing others?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

... though it must seem important enough to you for you to go to the trouble of making up (an obvious) lie about it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

There is clear statistical evidence that the rich live longer.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

Go give your money away to the poor if your heart bleeds that much.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

I pay my taxes and I don't whine about it.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

pay more into Social Security than a poor person because they earn more, and so are reasonably entitled to take more from it.

If FDR had intended everyone to get the same benefit regardless of contributions, then he would presumably have designed it differently, as a universal benefit paid from taxation, rather than as an insurance benefit funded by the individual payment of premia.

Posted by anon on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

I don't think the it was foreseen that the rich would get higher monthly payouts *and* receive those payouts for more months.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

Well you're obviously OK with pricing out San Francisco's public school teachers which doesn't bode well for the future generation of San Franciscans, now does it? Nice that you automatically assume that anyone who can't afford well over $1,000 a month just for a ROOM, must be some homeless derelict that you don't want around. "Those we don't want around" seems to include public school teachers??!

Posted by Penny on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 11:18 am
Posted by anon on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

in the West Village and have a Sex and the City lifestyle while working as an intern. They sure get a rude shock.

Here's the clarion call my little artist/DJ/cupcake maker/writer friends - you need to consider moving out to the Excelsior, Outer Sunset, Oceanview, Portola, Sunnyside and Visitacion Valley and cede the neighborhoods which used to be affordable (like the Mission) to those who make more money. As a matter of fact you no longer have a choice - it's now a fact of life. Besides, I think "Excelsior Hipsters" has a much nicer ring to it than "Mission Hipsters."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

You're so out of touch, you can't tell a real artist from a fake "hipster". Btw, I'm an artist, living very comfortably in a very nice rent-controlled apartment in the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

It's no longer hip to be an artist in the Mission - Oakland is where it's at. You need to struggle - good art does not come from being "comfortable" and bourgeois.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

...Guest isn't a good artist, just a financially successful one.

Posted by Hortencia on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 10:37 am

which most of us know by it's more common name: "bad art".

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 10:55 am

Art is a matter of taste. With your authoritarian, conformist personality, you would, of course, try to impose your tastes on others.

You don't like tattoos or lesbians with died hair either, we know.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:11 am

people wouldn't pay millions for a Van Gogh but nothing for a scribble of mine.

There are objective measures for the worth of art.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 12:02 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 5:56 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 10, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

Because every market fundamentalist knows that the best way to help tenants is to remove controls on landlords, just as the best way to help the poor is by concentrating wealth in the hands of the rich!

When landlords can charge whatever the hell they please, that's sure to drive down rents. That's why the landlord lobby wants to get rid of rent control -to lower rents so that they can make less money!!!

This is such insane tripe that it's hard to imagine anyone actually believes this... and yet they do.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:19 am

Landlords can and some do charge whatever the rent market will bear and tenants offer to pay whatever the market will bear. The average length of tenancy in SF has historically been 5 years. It is probably less now due to the high rate of turnover in the speculative startups. Funny how the 70 hour work week is not sustainable.

Who'da thunk that a 5 day week of 8 hour days was a good idea?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:33 am

you make a million in stock options after a couple of years.

Anyway, why do you care if people want to take a chance like that? How does that harm you?

Posted by anon on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

The chances of cashing out in $1m in stock options is generously 1 in 100,000, somewhat better odds than the lottery. It is not the general case by any means and thus public policy should not be made as if it were.

What I'm seeing in my little corner of the Mission in the few remaining rentals on our block, all cleared of old timers by evictions, is a 9-18 month tenancy of fresh faced white kids moving in, living large and then spending an inordinate amount of time at home all day in their sweat pants and house coats, and then moving out, each time the rent rises. Now the rents next door are twice our mortgage for a railroad flat.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

It may be dumb for people to chase unlikely odds, but why does it matter if they chosoe to anyway? It's simply not a public policy issue if people choose to work 70 hours a week in pursuit of a dream. In fact, many small business men and entreprenuers do that routinely. Hard work isn't a flaw we need the government to ban.

If the rental building near you are being cleared/Ellis'ed/TIC'ed, condo'ed or just re-rented, then my guess would be it is because the rents being paid on those untis are not economic for their owners.

Housing has to match the needs of the people who work here.

Posted by anon on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

live here causing high housing prices; or is it real estate speculation?

How much is housing actually worth as "housing"?

Is it a gross fascination with "tulips" enabled and encouraged through tech boom (bust)?

If this is Willie Brown-style ethnic cleansing on steroids, then the future city will be bleak clown painting of its former self.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

bubbly just once in the history of mankind, and in one small European nation, RE is has been in booms everywhere forever. In fact, the price of homes has remained fairly constant, long-term, compared with gold so housing is considered a relaible store of value even tho buildings do of course deteriorate. The land doesn't vanish, absent quakes and landslides.

In fact, looking at my property tax bill, more than half the assessed value is for the land and not the building, so trying merely to value a house is missing the bigger point.

SF is desirable for at least three reasons. It's booming, so sucks in well-iad workers. It's pretty, luring tourists, retirees, and those who have discretion over where they live. And, because it is liberal and tolerant (unless you're a white male conservative) it attracts misfits and oddballs, and they all want to live here as well.

It is that third category who are suffering. But they have the least power to change anything, except perhaps their location.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

The Dutch wouldn't have allowed that "small nation" in a day when the Netherlands were contending as a world superpower.

Comparing the pricing stability of the *obviously* *unstable* commodity of housing against gold is droll.

Gold prices *used* to be rock stable when they were regulated by the government but have since become a perfect analog for housing in S.F.

Gold for the most part is not a *need*, but housing is a real need like food and health care.

I think most people think the housing market -- and medical care -- should be stable the way food is stable and the way banking is (supposed) to be stable.

In fact, I'd expect nearly all the people who don't think agree to either expect to get rich, etc., through real estate transactions; or are so fired up by internal demons that they freely serve as bootlicking cheerleaders for the above class.

Here's an interesting source of food prices:

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:11 am

in the private sector. So that's no argument for government control even tho it's a necessity.

Most medical provision is private, as is most transit, energy, utilities and other services deemed "essential". Just because something is important isn't a reason to let a bureaucrat run it - the exact opposite in fact, it's too important to give to a suit.

Oh, and governments cannot ultimately control gold - that's why investors love it. It cannot be printed, borrowed or faked like government spending.

Bubbles take care of themselves eventually, one way or the other. Governments cannot control them, evidently. Homes cost what they cost. Deal.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:50 am

Food prices are indirectly controlled through agricultural subsidies and other means.

The VA is a *huge* public medical provider.

Having bureaucrats running things is *exactly* what you get when you hire a private corporation to provide health care,

The government used to control gold to within a penny of value -- as is manifestly obvious if you read the PDF page I cited.

Bubbles don't "take care" of *anything*. Bubbles pop and cause real hardship in the real world far out of proportion with the benefit they once provided.

Bubbles are a trouble which can be eradicated with proper planning and government action. That's what government controls are good for. That's *exactly* what government controls are good for. (I know you don't agree, though most people who read the SFBG would.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

and neither is a three-hour-each-way commute into the City or the immediate surrounding area because on your "salary" you can't afford to live anywhere closer than - not Sacramento, wait for it....Auburn. That may only be sustainable for, at most, 6 months.

Posted by Penny on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

so it doesn't surprise you that you don't get it. It hurts tenants in several ways:

1) The LL has no incentive to make repairs or improve the property
2) The LL has an incentive to find a way of evicting the TT, e.g. thru Ellis, Condo Conversion, OMI/RMI, TIC or merging/demolishing units
3) It leads to a confrontational relationship between LL and TT
4) It depresses turnover, decreasing the vacancy rate and therefore driving up rents at the margin
5) It deters new build, even tho in theory post-79 constriction is exempt. almost all new build is condo's.

RC doesn't help tenants. It rewards tenants who have squatted in a place for a long time at the expense of new arrivals. Just like Prop 13, except that I feel sure you feel that is completely different and undesirable

Posted by anon on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:53 am

an earlier article that much, if not most, new residential construction in San Francisco is for rental units. Repeating the same falsehoods does not make them true.

I'll let Greg respond to the rest of your points, if he likes.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

and there is little doubt that more rentals would be built but for rent control and NIMBY land use restrictions.

Posted by anon on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

to be condos were switched to luxury rental. I provided numerous examples a couple of months ago. Too bad, you didn't process the information then.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 1:02 pm