Weird But True: Average SF Resident Only Spends 26 Percent Of Income On Rent

The reason? Our City's sky-high average income.

It’s a well-known fact that San Francisco’s rents are sky-high: we spend an average of $20,000 a year just on securing a place to live. But a recent analysis of U.S. Census data shows that city residents only devote an average of 26 percent of their income to rent—one of the lowest big city rates in the nation.

Some context: the Census Bureau analyzes data with the belief that anyone who spends more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing is “rent-burdened.” This burden is so common that 29 out of 50 of the nation’s biggest cities see that trend.

But on a nation-wide list, San Francisco ranked all the way down at #5 for the highest percentage of income dedicated to rent—behind Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis and Jacksonville. Our 26 percent marks us as well-below the standard, despite our highly-competitive and expensive housing market.

If that doesn’t make any sense, here’s the key: our low percentage of income devoted to rent most likely originates from our collectively enormous salaries. The average San Francisco resident who works in science, technology, engineering or mathematics earns $98,000 a year, which can easily accommodate our steadily rising rents.

And in recent years, our percentage has dropped, from 29 percent to 26 percent from 2012 to 2015. Which means that despite constantly-raising housing costs, our City’s overall income allows us (well, those of us who earn big salaries) to keep up.


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