Reporter- San Francisco Business Times
The Bay Area as a whole is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, but even within our metropolitan area, some cities rank as bargains — which is good, or otherwise our region’s economy would probably collapse.
I wrote a story yesterday about the Bay Area boasting the three fastest growing markets for rents nationwide, based on data from RealFacts, an apartment research firm. I asked the firm for a list of the most expensive and least expensive cities to rent an apartment in the Bay Area. Click on the image to see the lists.
The city with the lowest average, Antioch, has an average rent of $1,120, which represents a 5.5 percent bump in growth during 2013. In comparison, the most expensive city (you guessed it!) San Francisco boasted an average rent of $3,056 with 10.6 percent growth during the past year.
So within a 50-mile radius, rents can drop by nearly two-thirds. It’s somewhat reassuring to know that the entire region isn’t one big South of Market and that there are some pockets of affordability. The top 10 most affordable cities were in either the East Bay or North Bay in areas that could require an hour-plus commute for people who work in San Francisco or the Peninsula, which are two of the major job centers in the region.
Most of the recent debate over income inequality has focused on San Francisco and people who live here but commute to Silicon Valley. It’s interesting to me that the debate doesn’t zero in more on cities like Mountain View, which made the top 10 most expensive list and offers a 22 percent discount to San Francisco. Why aren’t those cities more desirable to tech workers? What can those cities do to offer more perks of urban living: active streets, cool restaurants and bars?
As a resident of San Francisco, I completely understand the desire to live here, especially if your job is also in the city. It takes me 40 minutes door-to-door to commute about five miles whether it’s via public transit or car, and yet, I’d rather spend those 40 minutes in the same city as opposed to traveling 30 or more miles in 40 minutes. I consider myself lucky as living and working in the same city seems to be an unusual feat these days.
I also recognize that San Francisco isn’t the end all, be all in the Bay Area. But, cities such as Berkeley that are often considered affordable alternatives — it’s No. 6 on the most expensive list — aren’t much of deal anymore.
For decades, choosing to live in the Bay Area meant you were choosing to pay the premium. It’s just a matter of where and how much.
Blanca Torres covers East Bay real estate for the San Francisco Business Times.