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  • Paola Ayala

Housing in San Francisco; Looking at the past

Economic disproportion in San Francisco has been a big issue for years and one that continues growing. Growing job opportunities and limited housing have consequences, Bay Area communities has seen these up close. Big tech industries have opened many doors and have brought many people from all over the country into the bay. Many native San Franciscans see big companies on the way to work, see their shuttles taking employees to work, more tech employees on Bart and Muni, their significant buildings; we know the bay is a tech place. But why? Why San Francisco? And most importantly, what is it doing to our communities? Let’s talk about it.

Today we will talk about taxes and decisions made by people in power and how the city has been affected by these significant changes. In former Mayor Ed Lee’s early-term he passed a

‘business friendly” tax exemption that he predicted would lure in tech companies. That gave big companies who made more than $1 million a chance to fund community projects, donations to nonprofits, and overall bring economic growth to the Market Tenderloin area in exchange for a big tax break coming from the city’s budget. After Twitter took the bait in 2012, other major tech companies like Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest and more started to follow and soon called SF home, bringing over 64,000 jobs and growing. The job market and economy skyrocketed; compared to 2010’s recession, San Francisco’s budget is now $10 billion a year and growing. The problem, though, only about 5,000 houses have been built throughout this job boom. This means not enough housing, rent increases, and so the city leaves people susceptible to all kinds of housing problems. Housing pricing has increased, and high-wage tech workers can pay; I can’t say the same for people renting, though. This brings economic disproportion to the table.

The minimum annual income you need to buy a house in San Francisco has increased to $254,000, as estimated by the California Association of Realtors. The average house price in the city is $1.1 million, with the median annual household income of the city being $80,000. It is not unfair to say buying a house is far more than unlikely for the average San Franciscan. It is not unfair to say housing for a median or lower-income family is scarce, but many of these families rely on San Francisco for income and education. Their jobs and schools are here, and more importantly, their generations before them have been here for years as well. Many people have moved out of the city, going miles away to buy housing and commute to the city every day for work. The pandemic also didn't make things easier. The shutdowns in March 2020 significantly impacted people working in small businesses, retail, and any non-essential workplace. For example, many people who relied on working at gyms, malls, movie theatres, transportation, hospitality, etc., were feeling the heat of not working. Small businesses in the city especially felt the hit from the shutdowns the most; an estimated 56% of small businesses with storefronts were behind on rent. Meanwhile, many high-wage tech workers were able to work from home unaffected by the heat of the shutdowns; it is obvious who the pandemic has affected the most financially.

So what is being done? The San Francisco planning commission is the group of people who advise the Mayor and city on housing policies. They are currently working on making sure land units aren’t just reserved for luxury apartments. Transforming and growing our transportation is also being talked about. Introducing high-speed trains connecting parts of the Bay Area and even farther. Expanding our transportation would help people commute from Silicon Valley and Sacramento, across California’s high populated cities with high-speed trains. This would only shorten the commuter distance for people who live in lower rent areas to their jobs in the city. So far, many believe the solution to this housing crisis is clear, increase affordable housing and improve transit. Pressure needs to be put on city officials to work closely with the communities affected that will continue to be affected. It is clear we live in a very complex city with two different economies so it ponders the question. What kind of society do you want San Francisco to be and what will you do?

What do you think? Contact us with your stories and opinions!



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