It’s even harder if you’re a woman.
OWe’re rather inclined to angrily sneer at the state of rental and homeownership in the Bay Area. In fact: at present, one could (correctly) assume that it is now a hobby for us.
Even at the height of “pandemic pricing” — the result of unaffected and unattached city residents fleeing San Francisco in droves, claiming the metropolis, just like NYC, was “dead” and “never coming back” — the average San Franciscan would have had to earn at least $88,000 to comfortably afford the smallest of studio apartments. For context, this aforementioned annual income is about 47% higher than the national average. And those estimates were based on numbers skewed by rental and home prices down about 27% on average in San Francisco; suffice it to say that the current reality for people living in the seven out of seven, especially those who are single, is even more severe, discouraged and disheartening as the city returns to a familiar shape.
Case in point: A recent study by real estate data provider PropertyShark shows – when extrapolated to US Census data showing the ratio of male to female population in San Francisco – that approximately 70% of all single San Franciscans are excluded of the homeownership model. What could be more surprising? This percentage explodes to 82% when only single women are taken into account. (For comparison, 61% of all single men in San Francisco cannot afford the average San Francisco home price…which currently stands at $1.2 million.)
“California’s soaring real estate prices have created a landscape in which neither single men nor women can afford a home in most of the state’s largest urban centers,” reads an excerpt from the study before. to mention the disproportionate effect it has had on single women looking to own a home. “For single women buyers, nearly every city in the state remains unaffordable: San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, Oakland and San Diego would all require more than half a woman’s salary to buy a first home.”
MPlus: The housing gender gap has actually widened in some Bay Area cities. In San Jose, housing costs for women have increased twice as fast as housing costs for men. While Oakland has not seen the same rate, income levels for female buyers have not increased at the same rate as their male counterparts, creating a disadvantageous playing field in East Bay real estate.
Even the very measure of affordability on which the study is skewed is well outside the realm of what most economists deem acceptable: allocating no more than 30% of your total net income per month to housing expenses. (i.e. rent, mortgage payments and utility bills) . In San Francisco, the PropertyShark study found that single women would need to spend 84% of local median income just to pay monthly mortgage payments on a first home. Men? 61%.
Although the situation is a little better in Oakland, it would take 68% of the local median salary for women to buy a first home and 57% for men.
IIt’s become far too grim a truth to be synonymous with living in the Bay Area with just scratching. Rental prices continue to climb in the area, now standing at $3,230 for the average apartment, more than double the national average. Home prices are even more miserably out of reach for the vast majority of Bay Area residents; the “most affordable homes” (which will need lots of attention) in the area are in and around Novato and Vallejo, north of $650,000. Gas prices are now generally at $6 in the region. Grocery prices in San Francisco are 22% higher than the national average. Paying to park a car in a downtown garage is financial suicide.
Still, we bet most of us reading this can’t imagine seeing our fleeting days pass away elsewhere in the country, perhaps the world. The Bay Area is a wonderfully enchanting slice of Northern California, but there’s no denying that moving here is financially insecure, even if you’re earning a six-figure salary.
We need more affordable housing. We need to destigmatize working class life situations (like rental ORS). We need to rebuild the financial safety nets that so many have fallen due to the pandemic; blatant rent increases; make medical bills worse. We need living wages, not minimum wages. We must – at the cellular and brain levels – understand that affordable housing is a non-negotiable human right.
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Perhaps after checking off all of these things, the idea of owning a home that can be painted on a whim will enter our conscious realities.