As I’m wading deep in the hunt for my new Silicon Valley apartment, news of protesters – angry at rising rent prices in the city and nearby areas – smashing the windows of Google Buses – is all over my Facebook feed. Over the past 10 years, 75,000 people have moved to San Francisco, but only 17,000 units of housing have been added. Thus, you have angry residents who are getting evicted from their supposedly affordable apartments in a few regions of SF that had yet to gentrify.
The argument by the protesters is largely to send this group of (supposedly) highly-paid elite down to the Peninsula and South Bay. What the stories are missing is that there’s not exactly a plethora of housing down here either. Well, maybe there is in the far South Bay, but the issue would just move to San Jose should suddenly all the young single tech types move down here.
That said, not everyone who works at Google is making bank. Google employees are being unfairly targeted because they have a bus to target. Plenty of tech employees from big companies and startups live in SF and commute to the South Bay. Many of them live down here to. The whole area is extremely expensive. But also many of those Google employees are living with roommates in the city in tiny apartments. Maybe the argument is that Google is making it too easy to commute from the city, encouraging more people to live there versus somewhere closer to work but without a free wifi-powered shuttle. Most of those people would live in SF anyway, though.
Finding affordable housing on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley is a similar challenge. Neighborhoods that I used to consider affordable in my last apartment hunt four years ago are now anything but. We’re trying hard to stay under $1700 per month for a one bedroom. He won’t pay a dime over $850 per month and while he notes I can pay whatever I want, I’d prefer for our first apartment together we spend an equal amount on rent. We really want to find something under $1600 but that is proving quite challenging without compromising and moving into a studio. While that’s a possibility, I feel like as a 30 year old making a six-figure salary I … well … deserve at least a one bedroom to share with my boyfriend of eight years. Preferably one over 700 square feet.
We have our hearts set on one neighborhood but one bedrooms in the area go for around $2300 or more. The neighborhood just to the south of that has a few more reasonably priced one bedrooms (eh sort of) offering 550 square foot apartments for $1750. I don’t actually like that area, but it gets us closer to the area we’d want to live in and still not too far from work. The other option is moving further south to San Jose, where it’s possible to get a nicer one bedroom for $1750, but the commute and gas money really would hurt just as much as higher rent in a closer area.
The search continues. I think back to New York and how while the city is painfully expensive should you chose to leave it and go 30 minutes into, say, New Jersey, you could find much more affordable housing. In this area, that’s not really a choice. You’d have to drive an hour-and-a-half from the city to start approaching something affordable. And that’s without traffic.