San Francisco Cost of Living: Why I Stay

San Francisco Cost of Living: Why I Stay

There are many problems with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one silver lining for us San Francisco is that rent prices have finally started to go down. And yet, my friends and family remind me that what I think is “low rent” is still unrealistic for them. So why do I stay in San Francisco?

San Franciscans Need 5 Minimum Wage Jobs to Rent a 2 Bedroom Apartment

San Francisco is notorious for our high rent and housing costs. Therefore, news reports regularly provide different ways of understanding these costs. Recently, SF Gate published an article reporting that it takes nearly 5 full-time minimum wage jobs to afford to live here in San Francisco. Is this true?

Some facts from the article:

  • San Francisco’s minimum wage is $16.32 an hour. Therefore, it’s higher than most places. However, it’s arguably not enough for a livable wage.
  • “You need to work 4.9 full time jobs a week to afford a fair market rent two-bedroom apartment.” That’s a direct quote from the article.
  • Furthermore, this means that one person would need to work more hours than exist in a week to afford a place on minimum wage.

Californians Must Earn $40 per Hour to Afford Housing

The article goes on to phrase this problem another way. In California, you have to earn earn $39.03 per hour in order to reasonably afford a two-bedroom home. This is $14 per hour more than neighboring state Oregon. Moreover, it’s $17 per hour more than neighboring state Arizona.

Is This Just a California Problem?

I’d like to note something important about this article. Very few states on the map can afford two-bedroom housing at San Francisco’s minimum wage rate. More importantly, our federal minimum wage is only $7.35 right now. There’s not a single state in the country that’s even close to affording life at that rate of pay. Even if all states pushed their minimum wage to the suggested $15 / hour, only two states in the country would be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment according to this article.

So How Do I Stay Here?

I don’t work in the popular tech industry here. Moreover, I don’t earn a six figure income. So, how do I stay here?

Well, I also don’t earn minimum wage. I have a masters degree and extensive experience in my field. However, as an independent contractor, my pay ebbs and flows a lot.

Here’s how I’ve been able to stay here for over 15 years:

  • I budget nearly 50% of my income towards rent. I simply accept that this is the way that it is and work around it.
  • Moreover, I locked in to the city’s rent control. I’ve stayed in my apartment over ten years. The rent only increases a tiny percent each year regardless of the market.
  • It probably helps a lot that I don’t have kids.
  • I keep my needs small. For example, I live in a one-bedroom apartment. Sure, it would be nice to have a full separate studio for creativity but I make do.

But Why Do I Stay in San Francisco?

Frankly, it’s worth the cost to me. I absolutely love it here. Even though this city has a lot of flaws, it’s the place where I am most at home. I’m creative and excited about life here in a way that I’m simply not in other places. Therefore, it’s worth it to me. If I had children and could only qualify to work a minimum wage job, I might feel differently. I can see how people do feel differently. And so, I am grateful to be able to live in a place that I love.

Where do you live? How do you feel about living there?

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