Friday, July 12, 2013

Just how damn high is the rent, anyway? (Also, fun with old newspapers)

You know I like to have my fun with Gentrification Panic, but I'm not just some dumb asshole who thinks everything is great, bring on more Googles.  I do think that at some point, rents get so high that you price out entire groups of people that make this city so fucking cool, people who make art and play music and generally do the kind of shit that make the town quirky and lovable.  I mean, that's why I moved here, lo these many years ago, both to live in that kind of city and hopefully to be one of those dorks.

So we all know rents are high.  Very, very high.  But I was thinking - how is it compared to, say, when I moved here in 1990?  Would I be able to move here with my girlfriend and set up shop today, under similar circumstances?


We'll start with income.  A few weeks after we got here, I got a job working full-time in a bookstore for $20,000 a year.  My gf got a job at a deli on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, where Viva Pizza is now.  (I could tell you some weird wild stories about the clientele at that place, but that's another story.)  She probably made around five bucks an hour.  (Minimum wage back then was $4.25.)  And she didn't work full-time.  Maybe something like 25 hours a week.  So we were grossing like $2166 before taxes, probably around $1500 after taxes. 

On to housing.

Kids, this is what Craigslist looked like in 1990:

Crazy, huh?  Here's how it worked.  When you wanted to get an apartment, you bought this "newspaper" thing, that was full of what were called "classified ads," and you would look in your price range for a place that looked good and then call someone up on the phone and go see it.

That page above is from Sunday, October 21, 1990.  Since it's hard to read, here are a couple of listings:

$520 1 BR stv/frig. 17th/Valencia.

$795 2BR 1BA w/ gar. Nr UC Med. Easy trans. No pets.

$1100 Modern lux. 2BR 2BA. Frplc, gourmet kit, deck, garg. Nr 24th St. BART.

You can get up off the floor now.  Couple things: (1) That place on 17th and Valencia must have been a TOTAL FUCKING DUMP, since the only things they could think of to say about it were that it has a stove and a refrigerator. (2) I wonder what that place near 24th St. BART goes for today.

Anyway, we paid $685 for a studio in North Beach.  So, about 32 percent of our gross income.  Right around where you want to be.


Projecting our monthly income forward to today, we'd be bringing home around $3860 today.  Or, about $46000 or so a year.  I have no idea what recent college grads can make in SF today, but it has to be somewhere around that, right?  Between 2 of you, you could bring home $46K?  I mean, the job market is shit right now, but adjusted for a better job market?

So let's say Future Me and my Future Ex Wife gross $3860 a month.  32 percent of that is $1235.  What can we rent for $1235? 

Not much.

Here's a "Small 1 bedroom apt. in the Sunset Dist." for 1200.  But it does have "custom walk in shower laminate flooring shared laundry room"!

Or maybe this studio in the Tenderloin with "a good sized eat-in kitchen with energy efficient appliances and a good amount of cabinet space"!  Good amount of cabinet space, however, does not magically erase the fact that you're living at the corner of Turk & Stabbing.

Certainly no studios in North Beach.  If we go up to 1500, or 39 percent of our gross, things get a little better.  This studio in Chinatown looks pretty cool, actually, for $1480.  Or how about a 1 bedroom on Lincoln and Arguello for $1475?  Sounds totally doable.

CONCLUSION:  No way would it be as easy as it was in 1990.  But not impossible! 

This article, from the same day, is also a hoot:

Sorry, I cut off the top.  The headline is "Pricey areas in The City become less so".  (SIDENOTE:  Back when it was an actual newspaper and not an Amusement Source/Pennysaver/Sidewalk Litter, the Examiner always referred to San Francisco as The City, which I always loved.)  Anyway, the article is about real estate prices in San Francisco DROPPING.  I know, right?

Here are some open house ads from the same day:

DUBOCE PARK $239,500. 464 Waller. Sun. 12-2, 2BR, 2BA, Frplc. Vac. & alarm sys. Yard. Prkg.

No idea what a "Vac. sys." might be, but JESUS CHRIST IS THAT CHEAP.  Here's 464 Waller.  It's a single-family residence, as best as I can tell:

239 fucking thousand dollars.  Holy shit.  What a world. 

I love this one too:

DOLORES HTS $355,000.  4004 20th St. Sun 2-4. Custom blt Edward. Bachelor's hm. Quiet loc., bay view.

Bachelor's home!  Is that code for "gay guy, so it's in really good shape"?  PROBABLY! 

Anyway, to wrap up, things were a lot cheaper back then. Have a great weekend!


K said...

I think a vacuum system refers to central vacuum cleaners.

But what do I know? In 1990 my parents still had shag carpet and we pretty much needed a rake to “vacuum”.

TK said...

I never heard of such a thing! Thanks for the tip, K. Also, IFYCA re rake/shag.

GG said...

My parents had some wealthy friends when I was a kid who had a central vacuum system, I think it was an 80s thing, before everyone realized that hey, moving a vacuum cleaner from room to room is actually not a big deal at all.

For the east bay version, when my ex-husband and I first moved in together in 1994, we had a 2 bd/1 ba duplex in Berkeley (in the northern, nicer part) for $800 a month. It was walking distance from campus and had a big backyard, a fireplace, and a washer/dryer (and a landlady who turned out to be literally mentally ill, but that's another story). $800 seemed like a lot at the time, considering that I was a full-time student and only waitressed in a diner 3 nights a week, and my ex worked in a (pre-Netflix!) video store. Before that I had shared a 7-bedroom house with 7 roommates that rented for $2700 for the whole house. I think I paid like $250/month because I shared a room. Later, my ex and I bought our 3bd/2ba house in Walnut Creek for $250,000. That was 1999.

My friend from high school is currently visiting and she loves it up here, several of our circle of friends live here now and she is considering moving, but today when we were discussing it a little more seriously I had to lay out the reality of what the current housing market is like. Bottom line: As a behavioral therapist for autistic kids who lives alone, rent will eat up a HUGE chunk of your income... if you can even FIND an apartment.

It's depressing. Sorry this was so long but after that conversation and then seeing your post, it really brought our sad state of affairs into focus.

Andrea said...

I moved here in Sept 1991. My 3 friends and I found a place at 23rd and Calif for $1050. We each had our own room. We had a washer / dryer. There was a common room and a huge kitchen. Life was so simple then.

sundevilpeg said...

I ran the numbers for the 2BR/2BA for $1100 through the DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Today's price, strictly based on 23 years of price inflation: $3,109.70. Perhaps a bit low, considering the current overheated market, but things were booming in SF in 1990, too. Pretty close, all things considered!

Tamagosan said...

Let's not even get started on the price of parking all those air-cars!

Tiago said...

This last 20 years were terrorific for working classes. Since Reagan and Tathcher started to attack unions and employees with the neoliberal ideology our income has started to decrease significantly without stop. All western word is suffering this. With every crisis our condition gets is being damaged a little more. The best indicator is the relation between incomes and rent; I live in NY and this is very evident, my sister moved to Buenos Aires in the 90´s and she told me that 4rent Argentina apartments have being raising much faster than salaries. People of Spain, Greece, Ireland are the biggest victims of this pervert system.

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