Anyone who has searched for an apartment in San Francisco could appreciate the proverb "A drowning man will clutch at a straw." The process sucks. Open houses draw dozens of competitors, some who eagerly inform the landlord that they're willing to pay $200 more in rent and hand over the first-months check right now. And then come the rejections. Application, denial. Application, denial. And so on.
Eventually, the search is no longer about finding the right apartment; it's just about finding an apartment. Consumed by a growing sense of hopelessness, the apartment hunter craves for the day the search ends. By the time it does, he is so eager to sign a lease that the city's sky-high rental rates -- $1,400 for a Tenderloin studio, $4,000 for a Potrero Hill two-bedroom -- barely register. And that sentiment pretty much carries San Francisco's renters through the first of each month, as we sign bank account-denting checks with just-happy-to-be-here smiles.
For many of those residents, making rent means making sacrifices -- the price to pay to live in San Francisco. According to a new study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, San Francisco's rental market is nearly twice as expensive as the national average.
The study based its calculations on the idea that a renter should spend less than one- third of his earnings on housing costs -- anything more cuts into important quality-of-life expenses. It measured rental markets by the total hourly wages a household needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rental -- as measured by the Housing and Urban Development department.
Unsurprisingly, the Bay Area dominated this list, with five of the 10 most expensive counties in the nation -- San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz. In addition to SF, two other local metropolitan areas -- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and Santa Cruz-Watsonville -- were among the six most expensive in the country, with two-bedroom rental wages above $30-an-hour. By comparison, New York City was eighth on the list, at $28.35.
As the study suggests, "large numbers of low-income renters cannot afford the cost of living in the cities and towns where they work." San Francisco's minimum wage is $10.55, more than $3 higher than the federal standard. A full-time minimum-wage worker earns a gross pay of $422 for a 40-hour week, around $1,700 for the month.