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."


This forum---no matter the topic---seems to be saturated with comments from smug, elitists, homeowner trolls for the 1%. I would say OF and for the 1%, but I doubt that any of these elitists are OF the 1%. They just wish/hope that they will be in the future or try to give the impression they are now (rather shallow). Which is likely a Delusional dream on their part.

They want this city to be a city for only the 1% and super-wealthy. I don't understand what that will accomplish, other than to be "with one's own kind" as in "keeping up with the Joneses'" or "keeping up appearances," which is a very shallow and superficial way to live one's life. There are many places one could move to now where only the super-wealthy live, so why not just move there?

Personally, I prefer to live where there is a variety of people, not just the stuffy, conservative, snooty, nose-in-the-air, I-think-I'm-better-than-you "bourgeois elite." Frankly, you're no better than anyone else. Your shit looks and smells the same as anyone else's despite the pedestal you smug elitists prop yourself on. You just have delusional dreams that you are better than others and your gauge for that seems to be homeownership (and your despising rent-control and people who are not just like you arrogant and pretentious snoots) and your incessant and mindless cheer-leading for the wealthy.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

There just aren't enough of the 1% to fill a town this big.

Anyway, the pressure on rents isn't from the 1% because they buy, and probably pay cash. The pressure from rents is from the 100K to 200K per annum professional crowd who move here for the booming local economy for knowledge workers.

So what you are really arguing for is a shitty economy so that you and your buddies can somehow manage to stay in a place you clearly cannot afford.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

For some reason, it seems like every website that allows comments is filled with delusional right-wing trolls. I'm guessing they must have more time on their hands from not actually having to work. But since this is the *Guardian*, I figure they can't go unchallenged.

Unfortunately, if housing prices continue to skyrocket like they are, this really *will* be a city for the top 1%. It's because of them that things like the Sit-Lie Ordinance passed - with over 75% support in the Marina District/Cow Hollow. But neighborhoods like the Mission, Hunter's Point, and the Western Addition are still voting progressively - hopefully, voter turnout can be increased in those areas enough for the next election so that right-wingers won't continue to dominate the city council and the Mayor's office. Progressives from the 99% - or in San Francisco, what is now probably about the bottom 80% - really need to come together to win the next election...

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

There are maybe a dozen billionaires, at best. That's just 12 votes. so if you're routinely losing at the polls, it''s because the 99% aren't buying your rhetoric.

Oh, and why assume that right-wingers do not work because they can afford not to? In fact, GOP voters are poorer on average than Dem voters. Just look at the blue states versus the red states to see that.

SF isn't expensive because of the 1% nor because the city is controlled by right-wingers. Indeed, only 10% of SF voters are registered Republicans. Sf is expensive because - duh - it's desirable and has a booming economy.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

meaningless in that there are probably a hundred thousand homes in Sf worth a million.

The point is that SF can never be a city of "the one percent" because, by definition, there aren't that many of them.

SF home prices and rents are being pushed up by a large middle-class influx and not a very small number of the super-rich.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

Two inconsistent arguments are being made here. One is that San Francisco rents and home prices are skyrocketing because San Francisco is so desirable that those who can afford to buy expensive homes here are; we're basically the Manhattan of the West and there's nothing you can do to stop market forces, etc.

Another argument is that no, no, the city isn't being taken over by the super-rich, just a "middle-class" influx. Which leads me to wonder if this definition of "middle-class" isn't the one created by Mitt Romney - ie one that considers those in the $250,000/year bracket to be within its ranks.

The median household income in California as taken from the 2011 ACS survey is $57, 287. In our neighboring states, Oregon and Nevada, the median household income is $46, 816, and $48, 927, respectively. Comparatively, the median household income *within* the city of San Francisco was $69, 894.

With MEDIAN rents at $3,100 a month, this comes out to $37,200 a year. This means that the percentage of pre-tax income a MEDIAN income HOUSEHOLD would pay for a MEDIAN rent apartment in San Francisco would be 53.2% of total income. I know for me as a law student, about 60-65% of my living expenses budget goes to housing - and this is in a student housing unit.

This is not indicative of a middle-class influx. It indicates a minority "upper-class" influx driving up the cost of housing to unsustainable levels. If it is simply a natural consequence of the "desirability" of a city in a country with terrible land use planning policies and public transportation, this means that any improvements in the quality of life in a city will drive out lower-income and disabled residents and force them to live in areas with a lower quality of life. This is not justice, and it's something that must be fought by existing residents.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

because it is only for those earning more than that, that the Bush tax cuts have NOT been permanently extended.

But it is a delusion to suggest that a relatively small number of people can move RE prices in a city of 750,000. It's the large number of "middle" earners making 150K to 300K per couple/household that is pushing up home prices, and therefore rents.

You want to freeze the demographics of this city in time forever. Whenever was that the american model?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

"I know for me as a law student, about 60-65% of my living expenses budget goes to housing - and this is in a student housing unit."

LOL. You're a law student? Your financial suffering is just beginning, kiddo.

Hint: after you graduate, there are cheaper places to live than SF.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 8:22 pm
Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

Hey Demented,

I have cerebral palsy and can't drive. I'm from a working-class family and worked my way through academia, moving to Portland, Oregon at 18 with less than $1000 to my name and working at a call center while I put myself through undergrad...

These "cheaper places to live" don't have the combination of good public transportation and decent weather that works best for me. And arguing that only those who are born wealthy should be allowed to live in such places cuts against the very principles of meritocracy that conservatives CLAIM they support.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

So if the places with "nice weather" happen to be more expensive, as they typically are, and you therefore cannot afford it, then what?

Do you seek government action so that those who want "nice weather" can afford what they cannot afford?

Or could you maybe - I dunno - wear a sweater or a raincoat? And live somewhere more affordable rather than expecting the rest of us to subsidize your wealther-oriented lifestyle.

That's the problem in SF. People want to live because it's "hip" or "cool" or "liberal" or "cosmopolitan" but then whine that it's expensive because too many other people feel the same way.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 9:05 am




Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:07 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:13 am
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:17 am

And what does that have to do with housing affordability anyway?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:08 am

that belittles people with cerebral palsy?




Durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... "

Nice guy. Did you know that you can get leprosy from food servers spitting in your food? Is that worth your 4%?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:14 am

But i don't think a person gets to be deemed to have a more valid point just because they are sick or disabled.

Nor does that mean that they get to live in a very expensive city just because of that.

Their implication was that they need transit and hospitals. Well, almost every city has those, including lots of much cheaper ones.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 11:47 am

This shows the depths of depravity which exist among reactionary minds; anything to stifle debate and the interchange of ideas here.

HeartTenderloin is a better person than this troll in every way.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 15, 2013 @ 9:50 am

soon be a thing of the past. You can already see it - Malia Cohen is not a progressive nor is London Breed. Campos is but that's more tribal loyalty than anything else. The clock's ticking.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

It's about the progressive bloc seeing their constituency dwindle, and the resultant implication that they will never again enjoy the brief electoral success they had a decade ago.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 8:19 am

...all the progressives must be moving to the Richmond, Excelsior, and West of Twin Peaks.

Actually, come to think of it, there may be something to it. I remember when D11 was solidly moderate. Now I'd say it leans more progressive than not.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

the "delusional right-wing trolls" on these pages don't have much in their repertoire and aren't very bright. Have at them.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

others here devote so much energy and emotion towards them, trying to discredit them as "trolls" and all that?

It's almost as if you don't really believe that they are not having an effect? As if you lack confidence in your positions?

And anyway, why does presenting both sides of issues scare you so much?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Dear Concern Troll,

I can't speak for Eddie, so I'll speak for myself. Of course as a Concern Troll you deliberately miss the point and misread intentions of other people.

Whenever I on the odd occasion respond to a troll's comment (such as yourself), it's NOT for your benefit whatsoever. Not at all. It's for the benefit of someone who comes along and reads the garbage that you wrote. A sane response from someone else (other than another troll) helps dismiss and dilute your insane troll garbage to hopefully help educate gullible people who might come along and who aren't too current on these topics. A sane response to your garbage helps educate them rather than program them with your vile right-wing troll hate and ignorance. So please don't think that anyone who responds to your Concern Troll garbage is giving YOU time at all, because the comment is intended for others, not you, because you're beyond help and not about to "get it" because that's what trolls do, they deliberately miss the point. Hope this helps.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

Hear hear.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 6:19 am

and so resort to ad hominem personal attacks, insults and labels.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 8:17 am

Like looking at yourself in a mirror.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 9:06 am

The fact that all I get back is labels and cheap insults tells me you have no answer.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:45 am

the results or removing rent control in Boston? All I see is free market rhetoric without empirical evidence and unfounded personal attacks on Ted Gullicksen.

Argument: Yes, too much in fact.
Points: How does that differ from argument?
Facts: Hardly ever. Usually just slogans and rhetoric.

Cheap insults: your favorite card--usually unfunny, stale and stereotypical.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 11:18 am

Heartmasq, whose avatar was a photo of a malnurished child looking dolefully into the camera's lens was a mature woman who's tough life involved a series of personal calamities including the murder of a young relative who was close to her. These experiences informed her compassion for others.

Heartmasq not only provided thoughtful and informed commentary on a variety of topics, but she was almost always completely polite; and when she wasn't, it was because she was being goaded into it.

Heartmasq was banned through the actions of some of the same trolls that beleaguer this site.

Thankfully all the trolls can do here on is subject us endlessly to their right wing gossip.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

So it sounds like both you and this "Heart" character are carved from the same block.

The Troll block.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 9:07 am

false and unsubstantiated information that you try to pass off as fact. And to shine a light on the elitism, classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, conformity, hypocrisy and ignorance that permeate your commentary.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

Homeownership is the backbone of the Middle Class. The fact that very few own their homes in SF is akin to feudalism.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

and the very same activists who bemoan housing affordability while riding the real estate gravy train to hog heaven.

There are at least 300,000 residential properties in SF and I guarantee you that each and every one of them is owned by somebody. Unlike NYC, property ownership here is spread widely, and there are lots of mom'n'pop landlords. In NY and Chicago, a few large property companies have the rentals all sewn up.

SF is full of RE opportunities for those who take risks and invest some sweat equity, rather than whine, carp and kvetch from the peanut gallery. If you want to own here, you can. I came here with nothing 15 years ago and have made 700K from RE, so don't tell me it cannot be done.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

The reason rent and purchase price of homes are high is lack of supply for the amount of demand. The solution is to build more high end luxury units in high rise buildings.

We're running out of land, so we need to build UP. Unfortunately, you cannot build new structures that result in $500 a month one bedroom rental units. Impossible to build, no matter how you cut corners or remove profit.

You can, however build new units that cater to the people who do have money. Guess what happens? Rich people move out of the cute Victorians and 20 year old mid-priced units and into the new expensive units. If you have a glut of mid-priced units suddenly available, the price stabilizes or goes down. Then people living in shitty apartments they hate can move up, creating another level of lower end units.

That's how it should work.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:08 am

But build enough for the rich and the middle classes, and you relieve pressure on the existing housing stock, meaning less Ellis evictions, TIC's and condo conversions. And of course lower rents.

And yes, we have to build high because that is easily the cheapest way of building a lot of homes. We need high-density, high-rise towers. Every other city has figured that out.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:45 am

The laws of supply and demand have no place in San Francisco, that's just reality

Posted by Erick Brooks on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 11:32 am

Supply And Demand Only Applies To Grotty Places Like Oakland!

It Doesn't Apply To San Francisco, Where "Special Snowflakes" Have The Right To Live In SF, Whether They Can Pay The Rent Or Not!

It's Unfair That Only "Boring" People Have The Money To Live In SF!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

Too many people want to live in too small a space. If you make room for twice as many, you still won't satisfy demand. You'll just cram another 750,000 rich people into a tiny space that'll resemble Manhattan more than our beloved San Francisco. You won't make a dent in rental prices and you won't make it easier for a single working class person to live here. And, in the process, you'll destroy the quality of life.

You supply-siders only know one solution to any problem. But just as you can't drill your way out of peak oil, you can't simply build your way out of the housing crisis.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

"But just as you can't drill your way out of peak oil"

Actually, we are drilling our way out of peak oil. Just not in California.

If supply and demand have broken down in San Francisco, why aren't the rents a million bucks a month?

Simply because rent is expensive doesn't mean you're not at an equilibrium. If you don't think that adding housing for 750,000 people wouldn't lower rents (because there are allegedly 750,000 "rich" people just chomping at the bit to move to San Francisco at current rents), you are delusional.

Downtown London and Tokyo are expensive too - it doesn't mean that there isn't an efficient market for housing.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

"If supply and demand have broken down in San Francisco, why aren't the rents a million bucks a month?"

I dunno... rent control? The question is ridiculous on its face. Rents don't have to go to infinity for the market to be broken.

London and Tokyo are different. They're bigger. They have more geographic space, and highrises fit better into the city character. In San Francisco, yes I do think if we created housing enough to double the population, we still wouldn't satisfy all the demand. We would, however, destroy the quality of life here.

Frankly, I don't give a rats ass about equilibrium or efficient markets. That's the stuff of ideologues for whom everything must fit into a neat free market box. It's for people completely incapable of thinking outside that box. I care how policy affects real people. If you care, as I do, about BOTH affordable housing AND historic preservation, there's really only one way to achieve that: the strongest rent control possible. Hell, if it were politically possible to control real estate process, that would be ideal. And if it means waiting lists and lotteries, so be it. It's the only way to preserve the city's character and demographic diversity.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

"And if it means waiting lists and lotteries, so be it. It's the only way to preserve the city's character and demographic diversity."

LOL. I assume that the waiting lists and lotteries would apply to current residents as well - after all, why should white males and others who don't contribute to "demographic diversity" receive the benefits of rent control? We could make San Francisco a lot more "diverse" if we booted out a fair proportion of current residents.

So much of "progressivism" in SF consists of "I've got mine, Jack" - "I've moved to San Francisco, so how dare you ever try to raise my rent", or "I've bought a house in San Francisco, so we need to restrict new development to maximize the value of my house".

Translation: I've gotten here, so raise the drawbridge.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 5:02 am

"I've got mine" is exactly what you're advocating.

Either way, it isn't going to be easy to secure a place to live in a place where everyone wants to live.

My way, you at least have a chance to live anywhere you want even if you're not rich.

Your way, the non-rich need not apply. If you've got the money, then "I've got mine and to hell with everyone else." If you don't, you have zero chance.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 8:26 am

so they have a better chance of acquiring this that they want, whether it's a fancy SF home, a Mercedes or vacations overseas.

You're trying to make it like money doesn't matter. So then why would anyone work or try hard? We try hard because we want that which most people cannot have.

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

"so they have a better chance of acquiring this that they want, whether it's a fancy SF home, a Mercedes or vacations overseas."

Mercedeses should be allocated on the basis of waiting lists and lotteries!

I want one, so why should lack of money be a factor!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 11:43 am

How Dare You Suggest That I Live In San Bruno!

Creative, Deserving People Like Me Don't Live In San Bruno!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 5:10 am

Chin up old boy!!!!!!! I hear Oakland is positively delightful this time of year.........

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

Maybe if we recall Mirkarimi that will help.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 13, 2013 @ 8:44 am

Twitter tax break = big mistake.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 2:26 pm