Especially in the Bay Area, rents are always on the rise. San Francisco consistently ranks as one of the worst cities in the country when it comes to housing affordability and Curbed reported in February that only 12 percent of San Francisco households can afford a median-priced home in the city.
This affordable housing crisis has brought with it a number of negative impacts for Bay Area residents. Young adults are having to live with roommates longer and longer to be able to afford their rents. There’s been a steep rise in super-commuters, or people who commute 90 or more minutes to their jobs, as people are often unable to afford to live near their workplaces. Additionally, high rents are pushing middle-income earners into historically low-income communities, placing more demand on the housing there and leading to skyrocketing rents and gentrification.
At times, the Bay Area housing market can seem so big and overwhelming that it may feel like it’s beyond your control to work against decreasing housing affordability. But there are steps you can take, small or large, to do your part in trying to make the Bay Area a place where people of all income levels can afford to live. Here are a few.
There are tons of actions that you can take to encourage your local and state representative to help ease the Bay Area’s housing crisis. Try attending City Council meetings or Rent Board meetings to get up-to-date information on what housing-related bills your local government is considering.
Support projects that will create more housing in your city, especially more affordable housing. Try writing to your representative or speaking up during public comment about the changes that you would like to see in your neighborhood. In most cases, it takes active support and pressure for politicians to start taking action on an issue. By beginning to speak out about housing policy, you’ll join a large group of activists in the Bay Area who are working to create change.
Of course, you can’t always choose whether or not you have to move. Your job may change or you may want to be closer to family. But if possible, remaining a tenant in your rented housing is one of the best ways to keep rents down in your neighborhood.
Until the 1990s, some Bay Area cities, such as Berkeley, had vacancy control measures in place, a form of rent control that limited how much landlords could raise rents after one tenant moved out and another moved in. But in 1995, the passage of a California state law called Costa-Hawkins made vacancy control illegal. Now everywhere in California, if you move out of your rented housing, there’s no limit on how high a landlord can raise prices for the next tenant.
Most residential units in San Francisco are covered by standard rent control (though not all), meaning that if you stay in your apartment, your rent can only be increased by an amount set by the city’s Rent Board. Until March 2019, that increase is capped at 1.6 percent.
One of the best ways that you can help fight rising rents is through using space better. Storage startup Sharespace offers one way to do that.
Self-storage units take up a ton of space, oftentimes in communities where there’s already a high demand for it. In the Mission District, a San Francisco neighborhood struggling with rent increases, storage facilities take up more than 202,000 square feet of land, according to data obtained from the San Francisco Office of the Assessor. And with all the space they’re taking up, storage facilities also tend to employ fewer people than other businesses, offering little benefit to the community in which they’re located.
Sharespace offers an alternative to this model. By having people pay neighbors to store items in their homes, the startup eliminates the need for huge storage facilities. More space means more room to build, which eases demand and rent prices.