Lower Rents in San Francisco Might Not Help Its Housing Troubles

An expensive housing market remains expensive

San Francisco
Housing woes continue in this California city.
Daiwei Lu/Unsplash

A host of American cities have experienced pronounced housing inequality since the century began. New York and Seattle both come to mind, but San Francisco stands out even more. Plenty has been written to date about the housing market in the Bay Area, including detailed analysis about how widening class inequalities and a tech boom have converged there.

The onset of the pandemic has had an unpredictable effect on housing markets across the country, though, and San Francisco is no exception. According to a new article by Gabrielle Canon at The Guardian, COVID-19 has caused the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in San Francisco to drop. For anyone concerned about the city’s affordability, that’s good news. The bad news: even with the drop in price, the median rent for a 1-bedroom in San Francisco remains the highest in the country.

Canon points out that this, combined with rising prices for single-family homes, suggests a continuation of a worrying trend. According to calculations by the California Housing Partnership Corporation, the state needs 1.3 million additional affordable rentals overall — yet the pandemic may have slowed the process necessary to get there.

Combine that with the economic distress felt by many people working in hospitality and retail and you have an alarming combination. Alternately: the people suffering the most from the economic effects of the pandemic are unlikely to be in a position to benefit from nominally lower rents.

The full article is well worth reading, and contains a host of other data relevant to anyone concerned about keeping cities affordable for people of all income levels. For now, this news is less of a break from the norm and more of a slight alteration in what’s come before.

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