Lily McLean, journalist and social director
The issue of housing is often pushed to the side in discussions of the major issues facing the US today. But for the 78% of voting Californians who say that their state is facing a housing crisis, it is one of the most serious problems facing them. As the most populous state in the country, California’s crises affect huge numbers of people.
California’s fourth-largest city, San Francisco, is home to a multitude of influential corporations and start-ups. It also has about eight thousand homeless people in it and an average rent of $3,690 for a typical one-bedroom apartment. In 2018, a family of four earning $117,400 could be officially declared as low-income despite the federal government setting $25,100 as the income limit for the same group. As the cost of living rises in the city, many have been forced to leave.
It has been difficult to pinpoint when or why the housing crisis started in San Francisco. Tech companies brought employees and paid them more than average workers in the city. As the amount of money people were willing to pay for housing went up, so did the prices. Gentrification has also been a significant issue in neighborhoods like the Mission. Long home to generations of immigrants for Mexico and South America, it started to attract the attention of wealthier citizens which led to many low-income residents being compelled to leave the area.
The city has attempted to provide affordable housing in an effort to lessen the worst effects of the crisis. Open to those who qualify as low-income, and meet other specific requirements depending on the type of housing. Most people interested in qualifying for affordable housing must join waitlists and ABC7 recently reported that the city is short of available affordable housing by about 15,000 units.
The state has been working steadily to resolve the housing crisis. During the 2018 midterms, two major propositions were introduced to the people of California. Proposition 1, which passed with around 56% of the vote, gave $4 billion in general obligations to a variety of housing-related causes, including the Multifamily Housing Program. Proposition 10 would have allowed the government to enact rent control on any building, including those protected by the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act but it was not passed.
As other major cities such as Baltimore, Detroit, and Newark begin to grapple with housing shortages and crises, they can look to San Francisco, both as an example of how things can go wrong and how to begin to fix them. The city has dealt with the issue of housing for longer than most, and efforts made by both the municipal government and the community can guide other areas as they attempt to handle the same issue.
“California Cities by Population.” California Outline, https://www.california-demographics.com/cities_by_population.
“California Proposition 1, Housing Programs and Veterans’ Loans Bond (2018).” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_1,_Housing_Programs_and_Veterans’_Loans_Bond_(2018).
“California Proposition 10, Local Rent Control Initiative (2018).” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_10,_Local_Rent_Control_Initiative_(2018).
“City Performance Scorecards.” Poverty in San Francisco | City Performance Scorecards, https://sfgov.org/scorecards/safety-net/poverty-san-francisco.
DePietro, Andrew. “These 10 Cities Are On The Brink Of A Housing Crisis In 2019.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 Apr. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/2019/04/16/cities-negative-equity-housing-crisis-2019/#74ff5e237189.
Eby, Kate. “History of How Many People Are Homeless in the Bay Area.” ABC7 San Francisco, 13 Aug. 2019, https://abc7news.com/society/homeless-population-history-in-bay-area/5260657/.
Lee, Vic. “Disturbing Report on Affordable Housing in San Francisco Compares Housing Projections with Worker Income Levels.” ABC7 San Francisco, 17 Oct. 2019, https://abc7news.com/society/sf-city-hall-releases-disturbing-housing-report/5624397/.
“Median 1-Bedroom Rent In San Francisco Soars To Nearly $3,700 A Month.” CBS San Francisco, CBS San Francisco, 5 Mar. 2019, https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/03/05/median-1-bedroom-rent-sf-3690-month-zumper/.
Quinnipiac University. “QU Poll Release Detail.” QU Poll, https://poll.qu.edu/california/release-detail?ReleaseID=2633.