San Francisco Rents Really Are Becoming More Affordable, IRL

The number of sub-$1,500 studios to rent in San Franciso on the market right now is truly refreshing to see. 

Converse with any San Franciscan for more than seven minutes, and the state of housing will inevitably come up — particularly as it pertains to current rents. Some will wax grateful for the rent-controlled units they’ve occupied for decades… and pay hundreds (not thousands) per month to rent. Others will present a different tone; these individuals are usually the ones who took pandemic deals presented for luxury rental units that aren’t protected from obscene rent hikes.

San Francisco is a city of renters. 62% of San Franciscans fall somewhere in the rental spectrum. And while rents have continued to marginally increase from their late-2020 record lows, the rental housing market has “cooled,” according to tech real-estate company Zillow’s most recent housing report for San Francisco.
Moreover: Rents for studio and one-bedroom apartments show a year-over-year increase of less than 5%. (Compared to the 12.7% increase SF saw between 2020 and 2021, it’s a welcomed trend.)

On March 7th, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a study from the San Francisco think tank SPUR and economics firm Concord Group that found affordability for SF rental properties soared over 70% from 2010 to 2021. However, this correlation is directly tied to how much the median income level has skyrocketed during the past decade or so.

Numbers from U.S. Census Bureau show the average median household income from 2010 in San Francisco was $70,883. The same figure sat at a dizzying $119,776 for 2021. 

Alas, the relationship between affordability and rising income speaks more to the widening wealth inequality in San Francisco, rather than a surrender to the city’s omnipresent greed.

That said (and as we found out), rents in San Francisco are, indeed, reaching new levels of rational digestibility, particularly for studio apartments. Taking into account a gross annual salary of $70,000, which closely mirrors the average household income in SF circa 2010, there are over 80 rental units on Zillow right now a San Franciscans could responsibly afford. (Re: the nod to responsibility, most economics recommend spending no more than 30% of their gross monthly income toward housing, be it a home mortgage or rent, so this would mean an individual making $70,000 a year could hypothetically afford a 30-day rent of about $1,750.)

And these aren’t deplorable, dystopian listings either — unlike those you would’ve seen for similarly priced units in SF back in 2015. Take for example this sun-soaked Nob Hill studio with bay windows… that is currently listed for less than when it was offered in 2013.

Craigslist for the SF Bay Area is brimming with hundreds of like-priced listings, though requires the sleuthing to be more astute and suss out scams for deals that are, indeed, too good to be true. One large Japantown studio inside a *fantastic, well-located building* The market was recently renovated with updated appliances and new paint. So long as you don’t mind the carpet pulled from your Floridian grandmother’s home, it’s a gem.

If you’re looking to trade that $1,500 rent for a room in the Castro for a place of your own, now’s looking like a good time to do so.

Feature image: Courtesy of

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