Trying to rent a two-bedroom, Bay Area apartment on a minimum-wage salary? You’ll need to hold down at least three full-time jobs to make it happen.
That’s the alarming conclusion from a new nationwide report that highlights the gap between what housing costs and what people earn, underscoring the affordability crisis gripping the country as a whole — and California and the Bay Area in particular.
To afford a standard two-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco area — which includes Marin and San Mateo counties, and is the most expensive metro area in the country — a renter would need to make $61.50 an hour, according to the report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. If they’re making the state’s minimum wage of $15 an hour — or even close to the higher minimum required in San Francisco — they’d need to work about four full-time jobs to pay the rent.
Assuming a full-time job requires 40 hours a week, that would leave them eight hours a week — to sleep.
The situation is similar in Santa Clara County, where a renter would have to make $55.15 an hour or hold down slightly more than three-and-a-half full-time, minimum-wage jobs. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, they’d have to make $43.73 an hour or work about three minimum-wage jobs.
“If rents continue to rise unchecked, homelessness will soar because we do not have a robust and permanent housing safety net to assist the lowest-income and most marginalized people,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. during a news conference on the report called “Out of Reach.”
The report, done annually, bases its calculations on the “fair market rent” for an area, which is slightly less than the median price for a unit of standard quality. The rent for a two-bedroom unit in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties is $3,198. It’s $2,274 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and $2,868 in Santa Clara County.
And surprise: Santa Cruz County, with a fair market rent of $3,138 for a two-bedroom apartment, was the second-most expensive metro area in the country — after San Francisco.
The report calculates its affordability findings on the statewide minimum wage, even though the minimum wage is higher in some cities, such as San Francisco ($16.99) and San Jose ($16.20).
The discrepancy between what low-income workers make and what they must spend on housing has shrunk slightly since 2021, according to this year’s report. But as inflation drives up the cost of food and other essential items, and gas prices soar, many struggling tenants are left making difficult decisions about whether to pay rent or buy the groceries they need, Yentel said.
Tachina Garrett, 48, is feeling the squeeze. She was born and raised in San Francisco, but in 2011, after living four decades in her hometown, she found herself priced out. In search of cheaper living, she moved to Antioch.
“I don’t think I’ve still come to terms with it,” she said about leaving her hometown. “I’m still hurt over it.”
Garrett, who makes about $18 an hour working part-time at a gas station, has a Section 8 voucher — a government subsidy that is supposed to cap her rent at 30% of her income. But landlords can request rent increases to be approved by the voucher program, and Garrett said her rent, although drastically discounted, keeps creeping up — jumping from $499 in October, to $818 this year.
On top of the rent increases, the price of food has become so astronomical that Garrett was at a Lowe’s Garden Center on Thursday looking for plants so she can grow her own produce.
“You keep trying to make sure that you can maintain,” she said. “It just keeps climbing, and no matter how much money I make, I just got to keep paying more and more.”
Southern California Congresswoman Maxine Waters addressed the issue Thursday during the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s press call.
“This report underscores just how pressing this issue really is, especially in light of rising inflation and rising inequality that people are experiencing,” said Waters, a 16-term Democrat.
Waters blasted the Senate and the White House for reaching an agreement this week to support an inflation-busting reconciliation bill that invests in slowing climate change and bolstering healthcare funding, but only puts $1 billion toward housing — far less than the $150 billion proposed by the House.
“I’m upset,” Waters said. “I’m angry. I’m more than disappointed. It is unconscionable for this country with the resources that we have to ignore the housing crisis in America.”