Now Tech Workers Are Getting Priced out of San Francisco

Senior engineers at companies such as Airbnb are forking over a hefty portion of their salaries for rent.

An apartment building in San Francisco. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith/Getty Images)

Oct 6, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Angst over the hyper-gentrification of San Francisco, thanks in part to the rise of tech bros—young male employees who are paid hefty salaries and have enough cash to reserve public playgrounds—is nothing new. As companies such as Airbnb, Twitter, and Uber have set up shop in the city, older residents have been priced out. Workers earning the minimum wage of $12.25 per hour might have no choice but to embrace the struggle of a $900, 132-square-foot studio in Outer Sunset, a perpetually foggy and cold neighborhood adjacent to Golden Gate Park.

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But what may come as a surprise to some is that as rents in the City by the Bay soar into the stratosphere, even the tech bros are feeling the pinch, particularly if they want to live close to the office.

That's what the rental website RadPad found after crunching data on rents and salaries. It calculated the going rate for a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the South of Market area—where most of these tech behemoths are—along with salary data from Anthology, a Seattle-based job-hunting platform. Living within one-half mile of work and not paying more than the recommended 30 percent of income on rent seems impossible.

The worst off are senior engineers at Airbnb. Their annual salary of $120,000 probably seems fantastic to veteran teachers who take home just $69,400 per year and are being pushed out of the city. However, according to RadPad's data, engineers at Airbnb will shell out nearly 54 percent of their income if they want to live within one-half mile of the office. The median rent within that distance is $3,395 for a one-bedroom place, while a two-bedroom is $4,685.

(Photo: RadPad/Twitter)

As you can see in the chart above, engineers working at Slack will spend about 42 percent of their income, Twitter employees will fork over more than 43 percent of their salary, and senior engineers at Uber will pay about 48.3 percent of their income to live close to work.

Concerns about housing unaffordability aren't limited to San Francisco. There's no county in the United States where a minimum-wage earner can afford a market-rate apartment. Residents of New York City, which was the most-expensive rental market in the nation before San Francisco took the crown in 2014, have felt the wind breeze through their empty wallets for years. Meanwhile, folks around the world were shocked by a picture that went viral on social media last week of a tiny apartment under a staircase in London. The asking price for the Harry Potter–esque cupboard under the stairs: about $750 per month.

“People are scared. It’s bad and it’s getting worse,” a Spotify employee said about the cost of renting at a recent meeting on the housing crisis held at San Francisco City Hall, according to the RadPad blog. The minimum-wage workers and teachers being priced out of S.F. probably just collectively rolled their eyes.